DUCHESS STREET STYLE: THE DESIGN
The 'Egyptian' pattern was invented by the celebrated connoisseur and author Thomas Hope (d. 1831), and had originally been conceived for the colourful Egyptian apartment of his Duchess Street Mansion Museum that had been designed around 1800 with the assistance of the court architect Charles Heathcote Tatham (d. 1842) (further discussed in D. Watkin, 'Thomas Hope's house in Duchess Street', Apollo, March 2004, pp. 31-39). A chair of this exact pattern is illustrated in an 1819 watercolour of the Flemish picture gallery at Duchess Street (D. Watkin, Thomas Hope, London, 1968, fig. 41).
The chimerical eagle-winged lions or 'griffin', sacred to the poetry deity Apollo, that provide caryatic arm pilasters reflect Hope's introduction of 'pleasing' furniture through 'animation' to provide 'appropriate meaning'. Hope's interest in Egyptiana is reflected by the bodies of these griffins, that are couched like sphinxes, emblematic of Egypt, and are modelled on Rome's celebrated antiquities known as the 'Capitoline's Egyptian lions'. They relate to a sphinx featured on one of Hope's Roman marble candelabrum (T. Hope, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1807, pl. 1). Hope also owned a copy of C. Percier and P. Fontaine's influential Recueil de Décorations Interieures, 1801, which illustrated a sphinx-armed seat in an engraving symbolising the Cardinal Art of Architecture .
THE POET SAMUEL ROGERS' SEAT
The present chair was commissioned by Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) F.R.S., F.S.A., for his new house overlooking Green Park at 22 St. James's Place. In January 1803, Rogers 'was fitting it up with great care' and 'had designed the furniture himself, with the assistance of Hope's work on the subject' (P. W. Clayden, The Early Life of Samuel Rogers, 1887, pp. 448-449). Household Furniture was not published until 1807, 3-4 years after Rogers was fitting up his house. However, it is more than likely Hope showed Rogers designs for the Duchess Street furniture. Rogers, like Hope, employed the same craftsmen, such as Flaxman, Chantrey and Peter Bogaert. Hope and Rogers moved in the same Whig literary circles and their social worlds very much overlapped. Both men were close friends and occupied a position at the vanguard of Regency artistic avant-garde and were determined that their interior décor led fashionable taste (Watkin, op. cit., p. 229). Clayden's contemporary account of Rogers' house mentions that 'Much of the work was done under Rogers' personal supervision ... The furniture and decorations followed the Greek models' (Clayden, loc. cit.). Rogers may have displayed this chair in the Library at St James's Place in the manner of a George Smith design of 1804 for a Grecian Library chair with griffin supports and raised on a dais (G. Smith, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1808, pl. 47).
A chair of almost identical design, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, has been attributed to the Mount Street firm of court cabinet-makers run by Charles Heathcote Tatham's brother Thomas Tatham in partnership with William Marsh. The chair was sold by the late Mrs. Marjorie Beatrix Fairbarns, in these Rooms, 9 July 1992, lot 87. It is possible that the chair, like much of Hope's richly carved furniture, was executed by the talented Dutch craftsman, Peter Bogaert of Tottenham Court Road (Watkin, loc. cit.).