This rare suite of eight carved and gilded open armchairs and a chairback settee, with medallions of hand-coloured engravings after Angelica Kauffman (d. 1807), originally formed part of a group that also comprised a pair of torchere stands, a pair of pole screens and a Pembroke table. Known as 'The Upton House Suite' (see E. T. Joy, op. cit., p. 29), this suite was owned by the natural son of James Bonnell and Sarah Beal, James Bonnell Beal, who came into possession of Upton House upon his father's death in 1774. Although the suite has always been associated with Upton House, it in fact seems more likely that Bonnell commissioned the suite as part of a series of improvements for Pelling Place in Old Windsor after he vacated Upton Hall in 1788. Pelling Place was mentioned in the third series of Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature and Fashions, vol. III, February 1824, no. XIV, as being 'considerably enlarged and improved by Mr. Bonnell by purchase, and now consists of a handsome suite of apartments ...'. James Hackwell, in his History of Windsor and its Neighbourhood, 1813, p. 303, regarded it as a 'pleasing Villa... formerly a cottage... enlarged and improved... [with] a fine view of Windsor Castle...'. Family tradition maintained that Queen Charlotte and her daughters sat on the sofa when breakfasting at Pelling Place on 10th July 1797, and that George III scratched the centre medallion with his buttons while sitting on the settee later that year (E. T. Joy, op. cit, p. 29).
A related chimney-piece by George Brookshaw, with frieze panels after Angelica Kauffmann, was commissioned by James Beal Bonnell for the same Drawing Room at Pelling Place circa 1788 (sold anonymously, Sotheby's London, 7 July 2000, lot 81, £256,500). A hand-written catalogue belonging to the family and written by the half sister of Bonnell, Mary Ann Harvey Bonnell, lists the chimney-piece together with this suite of furniture, as well as paintings and engravings at Pelling Place, and is dated August 1852.
Among the subjects after Anglica Kauffmann depicted on the panels of the chairs and sofa are the Birth of Shakespeare and Shakespeare's Tomb, engraved by Bartolozzi (1781) and the episode of Damon and Musidora from Thomson's Seasons, also engraved by Bartolozzi (1782) (R. Edwards, The Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture, 1974, p. 611, fig. 3, and M. Tomlin, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1972, p. 165, pl. T9, for a work-table at Osterley Park which bears a striking resemblance in design and execution to the Upton House Suite.
The subjects depicted on the backs of the chairs:
- The Shepherdess Griseldis, from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (G. Hatje, Angelica Kauffmann, 1998, fig. 215).
- Syvlia overseen by Daphne, 1787, engraving by P.W. Tomkins (pupil of Bartolozzi) (Hatje, op. cit, fig. 120).
- The Birth of Shakespeare, 1782, engraving by F. Bartolozzi (C.G. Boerner, Angelika Kauffmann, Düsseldorf, 1979, fig. 163a).
- Fame Decorating Shakespeare's Tomb, 1782, engraving by F. Batolozzi (Boerner, op. cit., fig. 163b).
- Una, from Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, 1590, engraving of 1783 (Boerner, op. cit, fig. 169).
- Louisa Hammond, from the novel by Samuel Jackson Prat The Miseries of Civil War, 1780, engraving by F. Bartolozzi, 1781 (Hatje, op. cit., fig. 119).
- possibly Erminia, in the guise of a shepherdess, from Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata
- and a pastoral shepherdess after Francis Wheatley
The side scenes would appear to be symbolic of love awakening and love tamed.
- on the left, possibly Eros having his wings clipped.
- on the right, possibly 'Vieilles amans si l'amour dort', engraving by F. Bartolozzi, 1783
- Musidora and Damon, from James Thomson's Seasons, 1730, engraving by F. Bartolozzi, 1782 (Boerner, op. cit., fig. 138).