Lot 8
  • 8

A pair of George III mahogany library armchairs, circa 1760

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • mahogany
the rectangular padded backs with serpentine top rail and outset padded arms with blind fret-carved curved supports, the seats on square chamfered blind-fret-carved legs with pierced scrolled brackets and fret-carved H-stretchers


Almost certainly supplied to Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (1736-1803), for Cleveland House, Cleveland Row, Westminster (later Bridgewater House), and by his descent to his nephew
George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland (1758 - 1833) and by descent to his second son
Francis Egerton (né Leveson-Gower), 1st Earl of Ellesmere (1800 - 1857) and thence by descent to
John Egerton, 5th Earl of Ellesmere (1915 - 2000), by whom moved from Bridgewater House (formerly Cleveland House) to Mertoun circa 1948, St. Boswell, Roxburghshire, until sold, Christie's, 16th July 1959, lot 85 (pd £900) (a set of eight armchairs and a settee).


C. S. Sykes, Private Palaces: Life in the Great London Houses, London, 1985, p. 289
David Pearce, London Mansions: The Palatial Houses of the Nobility, London, 1986, p.179


An attractive pair of chairs in good restored condition. The front left leg to one with a chip to the top. Both chairs have later corner braces to the underneath, one lacking both back support brackets. One chair has watermarks to the back that would benefit from polishing and a reinforced seat rail. The front spandrel supports have been replaced. The chairs have been well re-upholstered recently.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Lord Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, (1736 - 1803) is considered the father of Inland Navigation and, through his work, helped to facilitate the Industrial Revolution. Having succeeded to the Dukedom at the age of twelve, following the death of his brother, Lord Egerton focused his early life on the construction of two of the world’s first canals. One between his estates at Worsley and Manchester, the other connecting Manchester to Liverpool. With the help of the celebrated engineer James Brindley (1716 - 1772) Egerton overcame mountains, financial difficulties and a very difficult potential sister-in-law to complete his canals by the young age of thirty six. Having secured his place in history and with the canals paying huge dividend - the Duke became one of the richest nobles in Europe - he turned his attention to improving his estates and collecting fine art and furniture. The Duke’s key involvement in the acquisition of the Orleans Collection of Old Master paintings in 1798 is testament to his developed taste for fine art. It is probable that these chairs were acquired by him during this period.

Cleveland House was named for the mistress of Charles II, Barbara Villiers, created Duchess of Cleveland in 1670. It was sold in 1700 to John Egerton, 3rd Earl of Bridgewater, the 3rd Duke’s grandfather. The house remained the London seat of the Bridgewater family, later Ellesmere, for nearly two hundred and fifty years until it was sold in 1948. During this period (circa 1854) the 1st Earl of Ellesmere, heir to the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, had the house renamed Bridgewater House in honour of his uncle’s contribution to art and industry.

The 3rd Duke moved into the house in 1757 living there until his death in 1803. During his tenure, with the help of the neo-classical architect James Lewis, he rebuilt the interior at exorbitant expense. The Duke also bought No. 3 Cleveland Place, incorporating it into Bridgewater House to provide more display space (David Pearce, London Mansions: The Palatial Houses of the Nobility, London, 1986, p.179) for his impressive collection. The chairs appear in situ in the grand hall at Bridgewater described by David Pearce as one of the grandest spaces in any London private palace (Pearce, op sic, p. 182).

 The design of the chairs can be grounded in the work of Thomas Chippendale. The first edition of his Director published in 1753 features a design for French Chairs with similar pierced stretchers and upholstered backs in plate XVII. The pierced stretcher also appears in the 3rd edition of the Director (1762) plates XXV and XXVII. A very closely related pair of armchairs incorporating the same pattern to the blind fretwork carving on the arms and identical pierced stretchers, were sold from the Collection of John M. Brealey, Sotheby’s, New York, 30 April 2003, lot 687 ($72,000).