The chair-back is primarily inspired by a 'new pattern' in Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 1754, pl.XV. The chair-design correspond closely to an armchair, also inspired by the Chippendale pattern, formerly in the Henry Hirsch Collection as illustrated in P. Macquoid and R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, 1924, vol. I, p 246, fig. 120.
It is quite possible that these chairs were executed by the pre-eminent firm of Wright and Elwick, cabinet-makers and upholsterers working in Wakefield, Yorkshire who supplied almost exclusively to local Yorkshire patrons. Both Wright and Elwick subscribed separately to the first 1754 edition of The Director and documented commissions, notably their extensive work at Wentworth Castle, reveal a close adherence to Chippendale's designs (see Christie's Wentworth sale, 8 July 1998, pp. 110-111). The use of ash as a secondary wood for the rails lends credence to a Wright and Elwick attribution. A pair of library chairs covered in Soho tapestry - which further conform to a set of chairs attributed to the firm and supplied to Swinton in Yorkshire - share the use of ash seatrails. The tapestry-covered chairs were sold in these Rooms, 9 April 2003, lot 163.
These chairs once formed part of the collection of Colonel Frederick Custance at Weston House in Norfolk. Colonel Custance was a wealthy and distinguished soldier remembered primarily as his only daughter, Olive, eloped with the poet Lord Alfred Douglas. Given his son-in-law's notorious association with Oscar Wilde, Colonel Custance attempted to secure control of the Douglases' only child, Raymond. This led to Lord Alfred's eventual separation from his wife. Lord Alfred was accused of libel against the Colonel. Very little is known about Colonel Custance's collection at Weston House. Weston House was demolished in 1926.
A subsequent owner of the chairs, Eleanor Medill ('Cissy') Patterson heralded from a family renowned in newspaper journalism. Her grandfather, Joseph Medill (d.1899) was the influential editor and publisher of The Chicago Tribune, a great supporter and friend of Abraham Lincoln and one of the founders of the Republican Party. Cissy's brother, Joseph Medill Patterson, founded New York Daily News in 1919, the first successful tabloid in the country. Cissy herself was a dynamic force who created the Washington Times-Herald. She lived in the 1903 Stanford White house at 15 Dupont Circle designed for her father Robert Wilson Patterson, also publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The heavily ornamented, white marble Italian palace has hosted other notable residents and guests, including President Coolidge and Charles Lindbergh. It is used today by the Washington Club.