Pair of armchairs
Ebonised mahogany, with old red morocco upholstery, fringe and studs
94.6 x 60.9 x54.6 cm
English, circa 1827–44
William Beckford (1760–1844); by descent to Mary Louise, Duchess of Montrose (1884–1957), and by descent; offered Sotheby’s (London), 4 July 2018, lot 85, and subsequently sold Sotheby’s (London), 17 January 2019, lot 176, bt James Graham-Stewart
Derek Ostergard (ed.), William Beckford 1760–1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, exhibition catalogue, New Haven & London, 2002, no. 145
‘William Beckford 1760–1844: An Eye for the Magnificent’, no. 147 (one chair only)
It is not impossible that these chairs started life at Fonthill Abbey, and might be identified as lot 1171 in Phillips’ thirty-seven day sale of the contents of Fonthill Abbey in 1823: ‘TWO BLACK ANTIQUE SHAPED CHAIRS, with gilt ornaments, the backs and seats covered with crimson morine, with silk fringe’; lots 1172 and 1173 offered another pair each. If the present chairs can be identified with those sold from the Abbey, then the upholstery, while old, cannot be original.
English and Hume’s Inventory and Valuation of all the Household Furniture…The Property of the late William Thomas Beckford Esq. (MS Beckford, c. 58, Bodleian Library, Oxford), 13th September 1844, listed in the Scagliola Library at 19, Lansdown Crescent, ‘2 Elbow Grecian Chairs – Hopes pattern gilt mouldings, nails and silk fringe’. Again, these might correspond with the present model. It is likely that the present chairs are the ‘2 arm [chairs]’ from the ‘Ebonized chairs’ sent after Beckord’s death to his daughter, the Duchess of Hamilton (1786–1859).
The present chairs, based on a plate published in Hope’s, Household Furniture, London, 1807, pl. 20, nos 3 & 4, were perhaps intended as a homage to Beckford’s fellow connoisseur, whom he had once thought might become his son-in-law.