The chairs, with their cluster-columns, triumphal-arches and rich fretting of cusped arches and flowered quatrefoils, are conceived in the romantic old English or 'Gothic' fashion promoted by the connoisseur Horace Walpole (d. 1797). The pattern appears to have been invented in 1770 for Sir John Griffin Griffin's stone-painted chapel chairs at Audley End, Essex. The chair's architecture corresponds to that of the vaulted ceiling of the Griffin family pew, which was inspired by studies of Westminster Abbey and designed in 1768. Sir John employed the architect Robert Adam (d. 1792) in the aggrandisement of the house, and the artist Biagio Rebecca provided the designs for the chapel window. The chapel is incorporated in the main house, and its building was executed under the direction of the architect, builder and joiner John Hobcraft (d. 1802), a protégé of Robert Adam's. The first of the chairs arrived in December 1770, when John Hobcraft invoiced Sir John for £4.15.0. for 'A Gothick Pattern Chair & Drawing fro Do.' (English Heritage guide, Audley End, 1994, p. 25 and G. Beard and C. Gilbert, Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, Leeds, 1986, p. 435-436).
Replicas made of the Griffin chairs in the 1970s are illustrated in K. Mahoney, 'Gothic Style', New York, 1995, p. 71. A pair of chairs of this pattern was advertised by Messrs. Gill & Reigate of Hanover Square in The Connoisseur, November 1929. A pair of mahogany armchairs of this pattern, formerly in the possession of Mrs. Daisy Fellowes, was lent to an 'Exhibition of English Chairs' at 61 St. James's Street, 1938 and sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 20 November, 1986, lot 132 (£20,900 inc. premium).
The first Cloisters was a gallery of Medieval art on Fort Washington Avenue collected by George Grey Barnard (d. 1938) and opened to the public in 1914. In 1930 John D. Rockefeller Jr, presented to the city of New York the high land overlooking the Hudson river which is now Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan. The site was developed with a new Cloisters museum capable of displaying the growing collection of Medieval art.