An important Pair of George III carved mahogany hall chairs attributed to Thomas Chippendale circa 1770
- height 38 ¾ in.
Mary Margaret Yeager, sold, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York City, March 17-20, 1943, lot 444. (one)
Purchased from: Ginsburg & Levy Inc., New York City, 1955, together with the next lot, $2,800.00.
The present hall chairs which are elegantly designed in the neo-classical taste can be firmly attributed to the workshops of Thomas Chippendale, elements of their design bearing close comparison to other documented examples of his work. These include the overall profile of the chairs which, with slight variations, appear on hall chairs supplied by him to David Garrick for his villa at Hampton (Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, 1978, fig.154), to Sir Rowland Winn for Nostell Priory (Gilbert op. cit., fig. 157) and to Edwin Lascelles for Harewood House (Gilbert op. cit., fig. 159). All these examples are, or were, originally japanned, and have rounded backs, the dished seats having curved front seat rails extending at the corners, and incurved sides inset at the backs to accommodate the panel backs. As with many of Chippendale’s documented chairs, many variants are recorded with very similar profiles and carved detail. The legs of the present chairs are almost identical, other than being plainly turned and longer, to those found on a set of six library arm chairs supplied to Sir Rowland Winn for Nostell Priory in 1768 (Gilbert, op. cit., fig. 150). In discussing the legs of the Nostell chairs which have lyre backs, Gilbert considers that their design exhibits his ‘drifting away from the playful Rococo manner towards Neo-Classical ideals which demanded a different approach to design’, continuing that ‘the seat rails and legs resemble an architecturally conceived Neo-Classical table frame with heavy supports headed by blocks and an enriched frieze – the result is an unusually hesitant composition’. Certainly, the present chairs present a more confident approach to the Neo-Classical form, the longer tapered legs and carved detail on the backs which making no reference to the Rococo. These details would indicate that they form part of an unknown commission dating from the early 1770s. Unfortunately, they are only first recorded in 1943 when a pair from the collection of Mary Margaret Yeager was sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York City, the other pair having no known provenance. Also, it has not been possible to trace any meaningful provenance by using the carved crest; which depicts a demi wolf rampant; lacking a motto or other charges of difference it is virtually impossible to ascribe it to a particular family.
The four chairs were acquired at the same time from Ginsburg and Levy although it is clear that they must have joined each other after the Yeager sale in 1943. Although virtually identical, the two pairs have subtle differences in both their carving and the mahogany used in their construction. This probably shows that they were commissioned at slightly different times, but the common origin of their maker is clearly indicated by the identical methods of construction used, in particular the manner of the scribing used to facilitate the turning of the dished seats.
Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978.