Designer / Maker
Designed by Dr Christopher Dresser (1834-1904)
Probably manufactured by Thomas Knight (fl. 1833-96)
for the Art Furnishers’ Alliance Co. (1880-83)
35in (89cm) x 19in (50cm) x 15in (38.4cm)
English, circa 1880
This chair is one from a group of experimental designs retailed through the short-lived Art Furnishers’ Alliance, which had its retail outlet in New Bond Street, London. The directors of this enterprise were George Hayter Chubb, John Harrison, Edward Cope and Sir Edward Lee, with Dresser as art director.
No other example of this model is known to survive, although an ebonised and parcel-gilt version is recorded in two photographs in the Chubb & Son Archive; see Widar Halén, Christopher Dresser (Oxford, 1990), pp. 72-73, where these and other chairs are illustrated. Illustrations of chairs, some very similar to those in the Chubb photographs, are recorded as ‘Dr Dresser’s designs’ in a sketch book (now at the Victoria and Albert Museum) from the archive of the Bath cabinet-maker Thomas Knight; see Harry Lyons, Christopher Dresser The People’s Designer 1834-1904 (Woodbridge, 2005), p. 151. As, in 1883, Knight was a substantial creditor of the Art Furnishers’ Alliance, it seems more than likely that he had been engaged by them as a cabinet-maker.
Thomas Knight, later Knight and Son, traded at different times from various addresses in Bath. Knight was responsible for furnishing the Grand Pump Rooms in Bath and for several British embassies on the Continent. At the London International Exhibition, 1862 the firm exhibited a ‘Writing Table on pedestals, of oak and ebony, with numerous drawers…’; see Christie’s, Ellel Grange, 22-23 October 1979, lot 129. The desk, later adapted by Gillow, is now in the collection of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath.
Although combining elements derived from ancient Greek and Egyptian chairs, Dresser’s design has an originality of interpretation that pervades many of his historically based creations. For other surviving examples of Dresser’s furniture for the Art Furnishers’ Alliance see, in particular, Michael Whiteway, Christopher Dresser 1834-1904 (Milan, 2001), figs 184, 185, 190, 192 and 193.