The present chairs can be traced to two distinguished houses; Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, and Upton House, Warwickshire. Photographed pre-1900, with the other items from the suite, their whereabouts prior to Hanbury still remains a mystery (fig. 1).
Photographed in situ at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, circa 1916, together with other pieces from the original suite which comprises six chairs, one wing armchair and one sofa, their prior whereabouts remains inconclusive (fig. 1). The house had belonged to Vernon family since 1631, until donated to the National Trust in 1940. The chairs likely formed part of the collection of Thomas Bowater Vernon (1832 - 1859), who made alterations between 1856 – 1859, or his brother Sir Harry Foley Vernon, 1st Baronet, (1834 - 1920), as they apparently do not feature in an 1840 inventory of Hanbury. Sir Harry, after inheriting the house, married Lady Georgina Baillie-Hamilton, daughter of the 10th Earl of Haddington, in 1861 – also the same year in which he became MP for Worcestershire East. There is also a possibility that the chairs were brought to Hanbury earlier than this – during a time most scandalous. Emma Vernon (1755 – 1818) inherited Hanbury in 1771 following the death of her father, Bowater Vernon, who left no male heir and Emma, nearly eloping, she first married Henry Cecil, later 10th Earl and Marquess of Exeter (1754 – 1804), in 1776. According to Emma’s trustee, the historian Rev. Treadway Nash, the pair lavishly remodelled the house and grounds, employing Anthony Keck to redesign some of the interior; for a time the couple lived happily together. Or so it would seem, for in 1789 Emma eloped with the local curate. An action which left Hanbury to Henry Cecil for his lifetime – who sold the house contents in 1790 and then famously, under the assumed identity John Jones, married Sarah Hoggins - daughter of a local farmer; the marriage, reputedly, only taking place due to the young nobleman being held at gunpoint by his future father in law, Lees-Milne, J., 'Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire - II’ Country Life, 11 January 1968, p. 69. On the Marquess’s death Emma was re-instated to Hanbury. Now with her third husband she lived at Hanbury until her death, during this time she too also made some changes to the décor, almost having to refurbish the entire house as it had been left near derelict by Cecil. There is some small possibility the chairs were bought then however due to the 1840 inventory it would some more plausible that Emma’s distant cousins acquired them in the latter part of the 19th century.
It is therefore more than likely that following Sir Harry Vernon’s death the chairs were sold and ultimately were almost certainly acquired for Upton House, Warwickshire, by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882 – 1948). Samuel bought Upton in 1927 and the suite is photographed there in 1936, see Oswald, A., 'Upton House, Warwickshire - I' Country Life, 5 September 1936, p. 251, fig. 8. Bearsted was the chairman of Shell oil and is remembered for his outstanding painting and porcelain collection, largely in the National Trust today, he also had a hugely discerning and capable eye when it came to English Furniture - acquiring fantastic pieces including the superlative ‘Apollo’ side tables, attributed to Goodison, formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Chandos and Buckingham. As a 19th and 20th century collector the viscount is well matched to his celebrated predecessors of the 18th century; he was at one time the chairman of the National Gallery, trustee of the Tate and chairman of the Whitechapel gallery. On ascent to his title he very soon acquired Upton House, which rests on the crest to which Charles I raised his standard over the battle of Edgehill, the first of the civil war against parliament.
The beauty of Upton, at the time of purchase, was somewhat hidden because of the plethora of previous owners, and their dubious renovations. William Bumstead was the first notable owner recorded to have added erections to the house - his initials, arms and date, ‘1735’, appear on rainwater heads to the front. Francis Child, of Osterley Park, bought the house in 1757and by descent his grandson Robert Child. It was likely he who made further alterations to Upton, adding two wings. Thereafter the house had several different owners; each in turn making changes with varying degrees of success, until bought by Bearsted who saw through its ‘blight of unsympathetic alterations’ Murray, S., 'Upton House, Warwickshire' Country Life, 11 June 1992, p. 142. Bearsted sensitively, and in tune with its 17th century roots, remodelled the house to make it a suitable host for his ever growing and splendid collection. In 1948, prior to his death, the viscount bequeathed the house, and much of the magnificent contents, to the National Trust - although, and perhaps interestingly, the more salacious of his furniture collection he kept, including the offered chairs.
When considering the calibre of the collections these chairs have belonged, especially that of Bearsted, it is unsurprising that they are most likely by William Hallett (1707 – 1781) ‘probably the most fashionable furniture-maker of George II’s reign’ Edwards. R., & Jourdain. M., Georgian Cabinet-Makers, 1944, p. 29. Relatively little is known about Hallett, other than his highly distinguished patrons who include Lord Folkestone, The Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Cardigan, Earl of Lichfield and the Duke of Chandos and Buckingham. He was also highly respected by his peers, the celebrated cabinet-maker John Cobb mentions him in his will speaking of his ‘honour, ability and integrity’ op cit.
However most importantly Hallett supplied a substantial amount of furniture to Arthur Ingram, 6th Viscount Irwin, for his London residence, a selection later removed to Temple Newsam House, Yorkshire, to which the 1735 invoice survives, see Gilbert, C., ‘Newly-Discovered Furniture by William Hallett’ The Connoisseur, December 1964, pp. 224-225. Furthermore pictured in this article are examples of both a carved walnut settee and chair, a colour example of another chair from the suite can be found in Bowett, A., Early Georgian Furniture 1715 - 1740, 2009, pl. 4:64, p. 176. This suite is in highly similar style to the offered lot with the use of carved scallop motif, accentuated cabriole legs, ball and claw feet. Attributes not uncommon in Georgian furniture however what is unusual and poignant is the inclusion of the carved rings above the ball and claw feet, to the front legs. This feature has become associated with the work of Hallett and whilst the offered pair are mahogany one can clearly see the high level of skill employed with the carving, particularly with the curvature of the claw feet, indicative of a maker of his calibre. Furthermore a mark of their calibre is that they have been carved in the round; the rear legs have had just as much attention to detail as the front. A pair of side chairs bearing scallop motif and ringed legs, also attributed to Hallett, sold Sotheby’s New York, 15 April 2010, lot 144.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale