Pair of chairs
Designed by Edward Welby Pugin (1834-75)
Oak, with ebony inlay
82.6 x 55.9 x 45.3 cm
English, circa 1870
An undated record of this model, inscribed ‘front elevation of chair quarter real size Designed by E. Welby Pugin’, is preserved in the National Archive, Kew (BT/43/58, no. 245877) – illustrated in our Furniture and Works of Art (2006), no. 9.
The present chair belongs to a group of furniture designed by E.W. Pugin for the Granville Hotel, Ramsgate, the failure of which in 1873 led to his filing for bankruptcy.
By 1876, some of Pugin’s designs were available through the ambitious church furnishers Cox & Sons (see James Bettley, ‘An earnest desire to promote a right taste in ecclesiastical design; Cox & Sons and the rise and fall of the church furnishing companies’, The Decorative Arts Society Journal, 26, 2002, p. 14). By 1880, E.W. Pugin’s furniture was also being manufactured by the London cabinet maker C & R Light. Less robust variants of the present design are recorded: they have four rather than five holes on each side, and small brass feet at the front. These too may have come from the Granville Hotel, but were also likely identical to the versions manufactured later by Cox & Sons and C & R Light.
Several chairs, identical to the present example, survive in private collections. Another was formerly in the collection of the painter P.H. Calderon (see Truth Beauty and Design: Victorian, Edwardian and Later Decorative Art, 1986, p. 32).
Three close variants (with brass feet) are illustrated in Jeremy Cooper, Victorian and Edwardian Furniture and Interiors, 1987, fig. 117. One is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – with a design registration diamond for 17 October 1870 – (1993.134), and another belongs to the Museum of Modern Art, New York (SC7.1987; sold Christies South Kensington, 15 April 1987, lot 98). Other versions, more and less elaborate, have also passed through the market over the past four decades.
A lighter variant of this eccentric chair, with an upholstered seat, is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (W.1 – 1991). The V&A chair is identical to a set of chairs designed by Edward Welby Pugin for the Grange, his family home, in Ramsgate in about 1864.
Other variants have been noted with more conventional legs, supporting an upholstered seat and similarly curved ‘klismos-inspired’ back.