These magnificent parlour chairs, veneered in richly-striated mahogany, are designed in the elegant George III antique fashion promoted in the mid-1770s by architects such as James Wyatt (d. 1813). During this period, Wyatt was embarking on his celebrated career in the court Board-of Works, and was involved in several projects in Oxford.
Appropriate to a dining-room and room-of-entertainment conceived in the Roman fashion, their triumphal-arched crests are flowered and enriched in bas-relief with poetic ornament, comprising triumphal laurels festooning bacchic wine-krater urns and sunflowered libation-paterae that are wrapped in Roman acanthus. Their oval medallioned 'vase' splats are fretted with octafoil acanthus foliage issuing from Etruscan pearl-wreathed paterae that display sunflowers recalling Apollo, the poetry deity's love as described in Ovid's Metamorphoses; and also recalling the flowered octagon compartments of the Temple of Apollo illustrated in Robert Woods', Ruins of the Temple of Palmyra, 1753. The pearl-framed arm-trusses are flowered with Grecian palms, while more flowered tablets appear above the columnar legs, which terminate in reed-enriched plinths. The legs are enriched with flutes, and their capitals are strigilated in antique sarcophagus fashion.
Wyatt's contemporary design for the related triple-arched and sunflowered parlour chairs, executed for Sheffield Park, Sussex, survives amongst his album of drawings, owned by the late Vicomte de Noailles (the set of fourteen dining-chairs, previously exhibited in the Lansdowne House Dining-Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, was sold anonymously, in these rooms 11 November 1999, lot 50 (£474,500); the drawing illustrated J. Cornforth, 'In Search of Distinction', Country Life, 23 May 1996, pp. 58-62, fig. 9).