c. 1755 England

Offered by Ronald Phillips Ltd

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A highly important and extremely rare pair of mid 18th century carved mahogany Gainsborough armchairs in the manner of Thomas Chippendale and retaining the original gros-point and petit-point needlework covers, each having a serpentine shaped stuffed back with padded arms on downswept moulded supports with carved scrolls linked in an elegant curve to the cabriole back legs with scroll toes, and having a gently curved and shaped front rail carved with an asymmetrical cabochon ruffled centre flanked by hatched decoration; on channelled cabriole legs with scroll carving and cabochon knees terminating in scroll feet on blocks.

The needlework chair backs finely executed on a beige and mustard-yellow ground with strapwork border, one depicting a cockatoo and the other a pheasant, each within a landscape and adorned with swags of colourful flowers, the seats worked similarly with strapwork borders and colourful floral sprays in the centre on a beige ground.

Note: The needlework was made in the 1750s by Lady Barbara, wife of Dudley North and daughter of the 8th Earl of Pembroke. Percy Macquoid inspected the original drawings by Lady Barbara in the early 1900s and published one of them in his seminal work ‘A History of English Furniture’ alongside a photograph of one of these chairs. Sadly these drawings were destroyed in a fire at Glemham in 1913.

The chairs were originally part of a larger suite, from which nine armchairs can be traced. Each chair depicts a different bird, inspired by George Edwards’s ‘Natural History of Uncommon Birds’, published between 1743 and 1751. Another pair of chairs, one depicting a parrot, is in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. Two further chairs depicting a dove and a pigeon and formerly in the Colonial Williamsburg collection are now in a private collection in New York; a single chair depicting an owl is recorded in the Gerstenfeld Collection in Washington; and another single chair depicting a peacock was sold at auction in 1954, although its current whereabouts is unknown.

The chair frames are made of very dense, high quality mahogany and have acquired a beautiful bronze-like patination. The design of the chairs relates to plate XVIII of Thomas Chippendale’s first edition of ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker’s Director’ and to plate XXIII of the third edition. It is worth noting that the continuous curve formed by the arms where they join the side rails seems to be unique to this set. The designer and maker of these chairs show a deep understanding of naturalistic form and elegance rarely seen in cabinet-making.

Price: £100,000 +
Supplied to Dudley North, Glemham Hall, Suffolk;
By descent to The Earls of Guilford;
Removed to Waldershare Park, Kent;
M. Harris & Sons, London, 1945;
Collection of Claude Leigh, West Riddins, Sussex;
Collection of Anthony Edgar, England, until 1996;
Corporate collection, New York, until 1999;
Private collection, New York.
Thomas Chippendale, ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker’s Director’, 1st edition, 1754, pl. XVIII.
Thomas Chippendale, ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker’s Director’, 3rd edition, 1762, pl. XXIII.
‘Georgian Art, Exhibition in aid of the Royal Northern Hospital’, London, 1931, p. 57; one chair of the set.
Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards, ‘The Dictionary of English Furniture’, revised edition, 1954, vol. I, p. 288, fig. 197; one chair of the set.
Margaret Jourdain, ‘Georgian Cabinetmakers’, 3rd revised edition, 1955, p. 177, illus. 107; one chair of the set.
‘The Williamsburg Collection of Antique Furnishings’, 1973, p. 117; one chair of the set.
Christie’s, ‘Childwick Bury, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, Part I’, 15 May 1978, lot 123; a chair of the set.
Sotheby’s, ‘Important English Furniture’, New York, 25 January 1986, lot 162; a chair of the set.
Edward Lennox-Boyd (ed.), ‘Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection’, 1998, item 48, pls. 23 & 42; one chair of the set.

Percy Macquoid, ‘A History of English Furniture’, vol. III, ‘The Age of Mahogany’, 1906, figs. 188-9; one of the pair illustrated and one of the designs for the needlework by Lady Barbara North.
Height 103.00 cm (40.55 inches)
Width 725.00 cm (285.43 inches)
Depth 70.50 cm (27.76 inches)
Ronald Phillips Ltd

Ronald Phillips Ltd
26 Bruton Street

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