The arms are those of Wentworth within the Garter motto and with an earl's coronet above, for Thomas, 1st Earl of Strafford K.G. (1672-1739), who was created Earl of Strafford in 1711 and was made a Knight of the Garter the following year.
The chairs are painted as richly sculpted banqueting seats in the George II antiquarian manner, and bear the arms 'sable a chevron between three leopards heads or' in trompe l'oeil medallions. Their fretted trestles are enriched with pointed and foliated ribbons in an old English Gothic manner.
Wentworth Castle, that princely edifice that now sadly dominates nothing more than the M1, is a reflection of the political and familial ambitions of Thomas Wentworth, 3rd Baron Raby and later 1st Earl of Strafford (1672-1739) of the 2nd creation. A career soldier who had fought with William III at Namur and acted as Ambassador-Extraordinary at Berlin under Queen Anne, Wentworth's successes were overshadowed by the barren inheritance received of his cousin, the 2nd Earl of Strafford in 1695. While the Barony of Raby happily descended upon him, the noble estates at Wentworth Woodhouse were bequeathed in favour of a nephew, Thomas Watson, the son of Lord Rockingham. Thus the seeds of a lifelong architectural rivalry were sown.
Raby acquired the Stainborough Park estate, a mere six miles from Wentworth Woodhouse, in 1708 and in the following year engaged the Prussian architect Johan von Bodt to produce designs for a princely house that would 'make his Great Honour (the new incumbent of Wentworth Woodhouse) burst with envy and his little honour (the son, subsequently 1st Marquess of Rockingham) pine and die'. As the engraving in Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus of 1715 reveals, Bodt's palatial façade owes far more to Paris than to English precedents, and in execution was only slightly modified by the intervention of Thomas Archer.
Von Bodt's similarly ambitious scheme for the interior proposed a Gallery that ran the entire length of the façade which, had it been carried out, arguably would have been the grandest room in England. The executed interiors were, however, no less lavish and included a Long Gallery 180 feet in length, modelled according to Horace Walpole on the Palazzo Colonna in Rome, which was completed by a Corinthian marble screen at each end that Strafford had ordered from Leghorn, and for which the '4 Capitals after ye Corinthian order' were supplied by the French mason Daniel Harvey (Hervé) in 1720. It was in 1724 with 'The Gallery at Stainborough (Wentworth Castle) as Designed by Mr Gibbs' that Strafford rejected Archer in favour of his new architect, James Gibbs. Gibbs' Book of Architecture of 1727 was instrumental in the promotion of the new Roman or 'antique' style.
The chairs evolved from the type of Louis Quatorze garden seat illustrated in Daniel Marot's, Nouveaux Fauteuils, c. 1703, but relate in particular to 'Roman' garden chairs, in the manner of Inigo Jones (d.1652), such as featured in a 17th Century painting of Ham House, Surrey. Also at Ham House are a set of eighteen related but less decorated seats supplied in 1730 by the Covent Garden cabinet-maker George Nix (d. 1751) (P. Thornton, 'The Furnishing and Decoration of Ham House', Furniture History, 1980, fig. 152).
The same armorials, cut from tapestry, were applied to a pair of Regency chairs sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 24 September 1981, lot 88.
The chairs descended through the Earls of Strafford, and subsequently the Vernon-Wentworth family (a surname assumed by Frederick Vernon in 1804 shortly after he succeeded to the Wentworth estates) in situ at Wentworth Castle until circa 1951, when they were removed by Major and Mrs Vernon-Wentworth to Suffolk. Seven more of these hall chairs, presumbably part of the original set, were sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 25 February 1965, lot 111.