Pair of side chairs
Designed by Bhai Ram Singh (born 1857), in conjunction with John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911)
Padouk, with original string seats
106.5 x 51 x 51 cm
Indian (Lahore), circa 1889
HRH the Duke of Connaught (1850-1942), for the Indian Billiard Room, Bagshot Park, Christie’s, The Remaining Contents of Bagshot Park, 27-30 July 1942, lot 489
Julius Bryant and Susan Weber (eds), John Lockwood Kipling: Arts & Crafts in the Punjab, New Haven and London, 2017, fig. 15:20, and cat. no. 259
Victoria and Albert Museum (right), Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City (left)
These unusual chairs cannot be seen in contemporary photographs of the Indian Billiard Room at Bagshot Park, but the 1942 auction catalogue confirms their presence at the house. Lot 489 is described as ‘A pair of Indian teak [sic] chairs, carved with rosettes and foliage, and plaited string seats’. Other furniture in the heavily carved room included the billiard table, which at one stage belonged to John Lennon (private collection), a corner fireplace, a variety of other chairs and small tables, as well as curtains and cushions, all of Indian manufacture.
There is cordial correspondence in the Royal Archive, beginning in 1884, between the Duke of Connaught and Kipling on the subject of the Billiard Room. On 10 October 1889, Connaught (at that stage Commander in Chief of the Bombay Army) writes to Kipling (head of the Mayo School of Art): ‘Could you undertake to make us a few seats, chairs & tables, at your school; of Indian design adapted to European comforts, if possible made of different kinds of Indian woods?’
These chairs, in around 1890, were the prototypes for the thirty-six chairs designed for the Duke’s mother, Queen Victoria, to furnish the Durbar Room at Osborne House: see H. Blairman & Sons Ltd, Furniture and Works of Art (2006), no. 14.
We were grateful to Catherine Arbuthnott for sharing her researches into this commission, in advance of the exhibition ‘Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London’ organised by the Bard Graduate Center, New York and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.