Armchair

Ref: 20
  • Designer

    After a design published by George Smith (circa 1786-1826)

  • Detail

    Painted and gilded beech, with caned seat, and cushion of later date  (the decoration restored)

    99 x 63 x 66 cm

    English (London), circa 1808

  • Labelled

    ‘VI’ on card label nailed to underside of back rail (see right)

  • Literature

    George Smith, A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture… (1808), p. 56

    Clifford Musgrave, Regency Furniture (1961), fig 42a (for a chair from the same set)

    H. Blairman & Sons, Furniture and Works of Art (2016), p. 3 (showing the present chair in situ, in Belsize Park, London

  • Provenance

    Possibly Philip John Miles, Leigh Court, in the early nineteenth century, and by descent at Forde Abbey (recorded as a set of ten); […]; Sir James Stirling (1926-93), and by descent

  • Exhibited

    National Trust for Scotland, 2000-15

  • Collection

    Private collection

  • Notes

    This chair, with a slightly green black-painted surface simulating bronze, is almost certainly one from the set of ten reported to be recorded at Forde Abbey in 1846 (see Christie’s, A Collection of Important Furniture: The Property of Edward Sarofim, 16 November 1995, under lot 147).  The model has been widely published, and an example, from the four, now in the collection of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, was included in the iconic ‘Treasure Houses of Britain’ exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1985-86, no. 526.

    Examples have, over the years, belonged to notable collectors including the pioneering collectors of Regency design Edward Knoblock (one chair, now in the V&A), Walter Evill owned six (later with Blairman and then Partridge, four now in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton), and the Hon. Daisy Fellowes (two, and later in the Sarofim Collection, see above).

    To date, ten chairs have been identified, perhaps all originally at Leigh Court and later at Forde Abbey.  Four chairs at the Royal Pavilion, one at the V&A, the two from the Sarofim Collection (completely repainted), one now in an American private collection (in unrestored state), one (number V) in an English private collection), and the present example.

    There are two clues to suggest that the present chair is part of the ‘Forde Abbey set’.  The gold stars on a dark ground appear on all the known examples, but this is not a feature in the design published by Smith; this suggests that the same cabinet maker introduced this element to this particular set.  Perhaps equally significant are the numbered labels on the back rails of the Brighton chairs, and on the present chair (see right).  The Brighton chairs are numbered I, II, III and IV; the one in an English private collection is numnbered V, and the present chair is numbered VI.  At the very least, these labels might be associated with the six from Evill’s collection.

    More research is needed.