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A pair of George II style carved mahogany open armchairs by Henry Samuel, late 19th century
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7
A pair of George II style carved mahogany open armchairs by Henry Samuel, late 19th century
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Recollections of Places Past, Property from the Estate of Sir John and Lady Smith

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London

A pair of George II style carved mahogany open armchairs by Henry Samuel, late 19th century
each broad seat with distressed 18th century needlework seats, stamped H. SAMUEL 484 OXFORD SLONDON
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Provenance

Guy Oswald Smith (1861-1928) or Rose Marguerite Smith (1866-1942)

Literature

Illustrated and discussed, ‘Shottesbrooke Park, Berks., The Seat of Mr Guy. O. Smith’, Country Life, 1 February 1913, p.168;
Inventory of the Property of Guy O. Smith at Shottesbrooke Park, 1928, vol. I, 'Drawing Room / Pair of carved mahogany Chippendale pattern arm-chairs, decorated with lions' heads and snakes on arms and with claw feet and needlework seats';
Ilustrated, Ralph Edward (rev.), The Dictionary of English Furniture, Vol. 1, London, 1953, p.275, fig.152. Edwards writes 'In the thick set armchair (fig. 152) there is an interesting mixture of style. The splat and top rail are marked by strong rococo influence but the finely carved lions' heads holding writhing snakes and the paw feet are survivals from the previous phase of decoration'.

Catalogue Note

The collection of Sir John and Lady Smith features an important group of inherited furniture by Henry Samuel, one of the most important cabinetmaker revivalists working at the end of the 19th century. The pieces in this sale were almost certainly acquired by Guy Oswald Smith (1861-1928) and his wife Rose Marguerite Somerset (1866-1942) for their country home Shottesbrooke and their London town house.

Not much is known about Samuel's business which is recorded at 484 Oxford Street but the high-quality furniture stamped with his name is a testament to the firms output. On the 18th of December 1879 Lady Charlotte Schreiber noted that ‘Samuels’ was a new dealer when she bought an 18th century vase from him in the December of that year1. There is also a mention of the business at the same address in 1891. They were active from circa 1879 until at least 1913 with the advent of War. This period would tie in with Guy Smith's alterations to his Country House.

Previously thought of as solely dealers in antiques2, it is possible they had workshops producing furniture too, as much of the work stamped appears to be by the same sophisticated hand. In terms of a business model perhaps Edwards & Roberts would be a good comparison, more so as that company operated from premises next door between 1892 and 1899. They produced new work, ‘restored’ earlier pieces and sold the occasional antique. The use of antique needlework to cover the armchairs and stool (lot 19) offered here is very telling.

The exceptional quality of their stock with well chosen timbers, superior brass hardware and superb painted decoration and lacquer may explain why some of their work was thought to be by the best 18th century cabinet makers. This is certainly true of the present lot and long stool (lot 19) when they were illustrated by the Dictionary of English Furniture in 1924 and in Country Life when they were illustrated in February 1913 as antiques, not long after they were produced.

The Smiths may have acquired a large group from Samuel at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the last, which must have been an unusually large outlay. Certainly, the set of six chairs (lot 180) is described as twelve in the dining room of their London House in 1927 and was one of the most expensive items listed in that inventory. For further examples sold by the firm see a bookcase (Christie’s London, 6 March 2008, lot 104), a hall bench (Bonhams London, 15 June 2011, lot 62) and a pedestal desk (Christie’s London, 17 November 2017, lot 46), work which demonstrates how diverse their stock was and what superb copyists they were.

1. Montague Guest (ed.), Lady Charlotte Scheriber’s Journals, 1911
2. Chirstopher Gilbert, Marked London Furniture, Leeds, 1996, p. 39

Recollections of Places Past, Property from the Estate of Sir John and Lady Smith

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London