These armchairs are attributed to John Cobb on the basis of a closely related mahogany suite comprising six chairs and two sofas supplied to the 6th Earl of Coventry for Croome Court and sold by Sotheby's, London, 25 June 1948, lot 137 on behalf of the Croome Estate Trustees. Croome Court was refurbished under the direction of Robert Adam in the 1760s. While every leading London cabinet-maker was employed, Royal cabinet-makers William Vile and John Cobb emerge as the principal suppliers and Croome Court was one of their largest commissions. At Croome, a nearly complete series of bills exist for the years 1757 to 1801. A Vile and Cobb invoice dated 28 June 1761 includes two entries that appear to refer to the mahogany suite:
For 6 Handsome Carv'd Mahogy. Arm'd Chairs, on Castors, Stuff'd and Quilt'd & Covered with morrocco Leather, and finish'd Complete, with the best Burnish'd nailes...at £7 each'
A pair of corresponding settees are invoiced on 5 July 1761.
While Vile died in 1767, Cobb continued to supply for Lord Coventry at Croome. A suite of giltwood furniture identical to the mahogany suite was sold, the Property of a Gentleman, Christie's, London, 18 November 1982, lot 21 (an armchair and settee from the suite is illustrated in G. Beard and J. Goodison, English Furniture 1500-1840, Oxford, 1987, p.137, figs.4-5). This suite of six armchairs and two settees is traditionally thought to have come from Croome and may be identified in the two invoices of 1768. It is fascinating that a now outdated 'French' style chair popularized by Thomas Chippendale's Director of 1754-1763 was ordered a full seven years after the original mahogany set. The armchair invoice is dated 22 January 1768 and lists:
'For 8 french pattern arm'd Chairs Carv'd and gilt in burnish'd gold, with hollow backs, stuff'd & quilted in Linnen, finding stuff to the back backs, gilt nails, all small Materials, & Covering do Comp with your Crimson silk damask...£46'
Interestingly, one chair in the Christie's suite is inscribed 'Robt. France' who may be related to William France. William France's partner, John Bradburn, was employed by Vile and Cobb prior to setting up his own business in 1764.
This pair of chairs almost certainly come from a larger suite. Identical chairs executed in pine, beech or fruitwood and intended to be gilded include:
1) a pair: anonymous sale; Parke-Bernet Galleries, 4 April 1959, lot 126
2) two pairs: The Entire Stock of F.Partridge & Sons, New York; Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 29-30 March 1968, lots 411-412
3) a pair: Jack Dick, Dunnellen Hall, Greenwich, Connecticut; Sotheby Parke Bernet, 20 September 1975, lot 370 (col. pl. IX) and subsequently sold, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin N. Groves; Christie's, New York, 22 October 1988, lot 103
4) two pairs: The Property of a Lady; Christie's, New York, 14-15 October 1994, lots 487-488
A pair of the Croome Court model with cabochon-carved seatrail was sold in these Rooms, 28 March 1981, lot 193.