Probably designed by H.E. Goodridge (1797-1864)
& William Beckford (1760-1844)
Ebonised beech; the seat upholstery original, but the back and covering restored
95.9 x 52.1 x 49.5 cm
English, circa 1827-44
William Beckford, probably Lansdown Tower; [ … ]; with Paul Shutler; H. Blairman & Sons, 2012; private collection
Edmund English and Willes Maddox (illustrations), Views of Lansdown Tower, Bath, London, 1844, pl. XIV (see right)
The Beckford provenance is confirmed by the presence of his armorial cinquefoil at the junction of the x-frame front legs. The relatively diminutive scale of the chair points to Lansdown Tower, which, with its small-scale rooms, is the chair’s likely original home. This aspect of the provenance is further indicated by the barrel-headed tops of the legs, which relate to features found on other furniture and in architectural details at the Tower; see Amy Frost, ‘Beckford’s Treasure Chest returns to Lansdown Tower’, Furniture History Society Newsletter, February 2012, pp. 1-5.
Six ‘BLACK ANTIQUE SHAPED ELBOW CHAIRS, with gilt ornaments, the backs and seats covered with crimson morine, with silk fringe’ were included in the Phillips 1823 Fonthill Abbey catalogue, lots 1171-1173, suggesting that variants of our chair were first used by Beckford before the building of the Tower. There is continuity to Beckford’s affection for ‘black’ seat furniture, which he much favoured at the Tower, as a contrast to the oak case furniture.
The present chair, based on a plate published in Thomas Hope, Household Furniture, London, 1807, pl. 20, nos 3 & 4, was perhaps intended as a homage to Beckford’s fellow connoisseur, whom he had once thought might become his son-in-law. The design is closer to the Willes Maddox plate (which shows upholstered arms and gilding) than is the larger version, also with a Beckford provenance, included in Derek Ostergard (ed.), William Beckford 1760-1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, New Haven & London, 2002, no. 145.
The chair cited above, together with its pair, was exhibited at Masterpiece 2019 (James Graham-Stewart).