These handsome chairs conceived in the Grecian manner, allude to Arcadia with their tablets, enriched with Grecian-black ribbons, and supported by 'Apollo lyres', whose shell-finials and lion-feet recall the presence of Venus and the festive deity Bacchus. Their symbolic ornament derives from the French 'antique' style promoted by the connoisseur Thomas Hope (d. 1842) and popularised through the guide to his London mansion entitled, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, London, 1807.
These chairs correspond to the Shepherd set of sixteen chairs, seven of which bear the stamp of the exceptionally skilled chair-maker B. Harmer. The set was sold by a family descendant, Miss E.G. Dawson, in these Rooms, 15 March 1956, lot 63. The same set was then sold anonymously in these Rooms, 11 April 1991 (£264,000 inc. premium).
According to family tradition William Shepherd (d. 1815) of Brabourne Manor, Kent, is likely to have commissioned the set for his Russell Square house, around the time of his marriage to Anna Lovell Dawson in 1802. The set is illustrated in C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, p. 259, fig. 478.
A further set of twenty-three chairs of this model, was sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 27 June 1985, lot 84 (£30,240 inc. premium). One of these was stamped 'B. HARMER' which was noted when they were again offered anonymously, in these Rooms, 7 July 1994, lot 76.
B. Harmer's stamp was recorded on the suite of magnificent dolphin furniture, supplied by Marsh and Tatham of Mount Street, circa 1797-1799, for the music room at Powderham Castle, Devon, designed by James Wyatt (d. 1813), for William, 3rd Viscount Courtenay (1768-1835).