The present suite of chairs is directly related to the work of William Hallett, one of the most successful cabinet makers of the second quarter of the eighteenth century. The use of the turned collar above the claw-and-ball foot is evident in much of Hallett's work, including a suite of side chairs commissioned by Arthur Ingram, 6th Viscount Irwin, in 1735 for his London residence, and removed to Temple Newsam House, his country seat, in 1736. This suite was sold first in 1922 and again, Sotheby's London, June 24, 1966, lot 127. It was discussed by Christopher Gilbert, 'Newly Discovered Furniture by William Hallett', The Connoisseur, December 1964, pp. 224-225, shown with the original invoice. Another similar chair is illustrated in Ralph Edwards, English Chairs, London, 1970, 3rd ed., no. 56.
A chair at Colonial Williamsburg with a related backrest, the top rail almost identical to those of the present chairs and settee but without carving, is illustrated, R. L. Hurst, ed., The Antique Treasures of Colonial Williamasburg, 2000, pp. 24-25. This side chair has front legs with hoofed feet that are more elaborately carved but of the same form as those on a suite of furniture attributed to Hallett and made for the Dining Room at Stanwick, Yorkshire, see Lucy Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, 2008, vol. I, chairs, p. 360, figs. 230-232, and a table, p. 361, fig. 233.
A double-chairback settee with similar scrolling top rail and a foliate-carved shaped central panel above a vasiform backrest detached from the top and joined at the sides is illustrated, H. Cescinsky, English Furniture from Gothic to Sheraton, 1929, Grand Rapids: The Dean-Hicks Company, p. 182. The apron has inverted shells that are reversed on the present settee. Another related suite of furniture from the Master's House, Peterhouse College, Cambridge, is also illustrated by Cescinsky, op. cit., p. 184, with similarly carved shells and husks to the tops of the cabriole legs, the illustrated side chair from the suite with similarly sized claw-and-ball feet to those of the present suite. Finally, Cescinsky, op. cit., illustrates a side chair with shell- and husk-carved cabriole legs with ring-turned collars that is most similar to those of the present suite, the brackets of the legs carved in the same manner as the Temple Newsam suite. A settee from the collection of Percival Griffiths with a related backrest and ring-turned collars to the cabriole legs is illustrated, Macquoid and Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, 1986, rev. ed., vol. III, p. 83, fig. 28. The feather-carved pierced birds' head terminals are also found on a pair of armchairs, Handbook, Hyde Park Antiques, New York, vol. III, p. 20.
Various settees, probably by Hallett and with similar cabriole legs with ring-turned collars were sold: one sold in these rooms, March 15, 1980, lot 66; Phillips, London, collection of Polly Peck International, 42 Berkeley Square, February 19, 1991, lot 88 and later sold, Christie's, London, July 1, 2004, lot 26 (£59,750), another, Sotheby's, London, November 15, 1996, lot 29;, and an armchair, sold, Christie's, New York, October 14, 2004, lot 65.
William Hallett was one of the most fashionable cabinet makers working in the second quarter of the 18th century and was possibly the partner of the firm of Vile and Cobb. Because of his inheritance, successful property ventures and his marriage to a cousin with a large dowry, Hallett amassed a fortune and was able to spend less time involved with furniture making, delegating those duties to his son, William Jr. His clients included the 4th Duke of Beaufort at Badminton, Augusta, Princess of Wales, 1st Earl of Leicester at Holkham, Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh at Uppark, 2nd Earl of Lichfield at Ditchley Park, 7th Earl of Pembroke at Wilton House, and 3rd Lord Burlington.
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