One chair from this distinguished suite of seat-furniture (probably originally twielve chairs, two sofas and two window seats) survives at Cobham Hall, Kent. The 3rd Earl of Darnley was a loyal and most enduring client of Mayhew and Ince. Between 1760 and his death in 1781, his bank account at Coutts records payments totalling just under #4,000, indicating a notable commission. The association continued with the 4th Earl who spent just over #3,600 prior to 1803. Among other furniture remaining at Cobham Hall that can reasonably be attributed to Mayhew & Ince are two further suites of similar date and inspiration, including one with inverted heart-shaped backs of the same type as the present lot (see: J.Cornforth, 'Cobham Hall-III', Country Life, 10 March 1983, pp.568-571, pls.8,9,11 & 12).
The exact details of the sale of these chairs from Cobham are not known. The text of Sotheby's house sale catalogue for 22-23 July 1957 has, as lot 442, six chairs that appear to be of the related honeysuckle-carved model (J.Cornforth, op.cit, pl.9). However the numbered frontispiece photograph in the 1957 catalogue clearly shows a pair of chairs from the present suite as lot 442. It is possible that there was a substitution at the sale and that lot 442 was part of the present lot. This is supported by the fact that in 1983 five honeysuckle armchairs remained at Cobham but only one of the present type.
The attribution is supported by a very similar suite of seat-furniture in the Saloon at Chirk Castle, Denbighshire, which is of the same design as the present lot, although with simpler foliate cresting motif. Chirk is also a house where Mayhew and Ince worked. Two letters from Ince to Richard Myddleton of Chirk circa 1782 support the attribution, already strong on stylistic grounds, of the pier glasses and tables also in the Saloon (see: The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, Leeds, 1986, p.596).
Perhaps one of the most striking features of this suite is its similarity to Thomas Chippendale's documented work. The husk-entwined and draped patera cresting is often considered one of his trademarks and appears most famously on the Gobelins-covered suite executed for the Tapestry Room at Newby Hall, Yorkshire, circa 1775 (see: C.Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol.II, p.106, fig.180). Furthermore the present chairs and the others remaining at Cobham are constructed in what might be seen as Chippendale's house style with glue cramp-cuts in the seat-rails, batten holes for securing the chairs in a crate, along with the exposed back-struts that are also found on the Chirk chairs.