Pair of George II Walnut Library Armchairs
Each rectangular backrest with shaped armrests with foliate carved scrolled handholds and flowerhead paterae, above an overupholstered trapezoidal seat, raised on carved cabriole legs ending in hairy paw feet, retaining the original brass and leather casters. Height of backrest 39 3/4 inches (1.01 m), width 24 inches (61 cm), height of seat 17 inches (43.2 cm), width 26 1/2 inches (67.3 cm), width overall 31 1/2 inches (80 cm), depth 22 1/2 inches ( 57.2 cm).
Almost certainly commissioned as part of a larger suite, by Sir Philip Yorke, (1690-1764), Baron Hardwicke of Hardwicke, Gloucestershire, 1734, created Earl of Hardwicke and Baron Royston, 1754, for the newly created Long Gallery at his seat, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.
Thence by descent at Wimpole until the house, together with much of its contents including the present chairs were sold in 1894 by the 5th Earl of Hardwicke to Thomas, 2nd Lord Robartes, and 6th Baron Clifden.
Thence at Wimpole Hall until removed by the 6th Viscount or his son, Francis Gerald, 7th Viscount, to Lanhydrock, Bodmin, Cornwall, circa 1930.
Six chairs from the original suite, together with a settee, were sold by the 7th Viscount Clifden, K.C.V.O, Lanhydrock, Cornwall, Christie's, London, December 10, 1953.
The present chairs were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Martin Gersh from Messrs. Frank Partridge Inc., New York, 1961, and are presumably a pair from this suite. The pair was sold in their sale, Sotheby's, New York, October 18, 2006, lot 65.
Wimpole Hall was originally designed and built between 1640 and 1670 by Sir Thomas Chicheley, a friend of the architect Sir Christopher Wren. It was subsequently sold to the City merchant Sir John Cutler. His son-in-law, Charles Robartes, 2nd Earl of Radnor enlarged it and in 1710 Wimpole was acquired by the Duke of Newcastle who then passed it to his son-in-law Edward Harley, later 2nd Earl of Oxford. Wimpole was then acquired by Philip Yorke, Ist Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), who commissioned the architect Henry Flitcroft to reface the central block, which had survived from the Chicheley period, and to make various internal alterations including the creation of the long gallery in the west wing. Some sixty feet long, the room was created by Flitcroft in 1742 out of three small 'cabinets' which was subsequently altered again, retaining two screens of columns probably dating from alterations for the 4th Earl in the 1840s.
Presumably, the present chairs, together with eight other chairs and two pairs of sofas, were commissioned by the Earl of Hardwicke at the time of Flitcroft's alterations to furnish this new gallery, their exceptional scale being suitable for a room of this size.
Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any surviving accounts relating to the maker of the suite, although their quality and design indicate a London maker of some distinction. Unusually carved in walnut of fine grain and seeming to retain an old and untouched surface, their design exemplifies the prevalent taste of the period, with their finely modeled lion-paw feet, scrolled acanthus leaves, stylized foliate shells and C-scrolls ornamenting the strongly conceived frame. Another almost identical set of six armchairs without provenance is recorded as being on the London art market in the early 1930s, differing only in the carving of the terminals to the arms.
Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd., 'Exhibition (1939) of Old English Furniture, Needlework, Silver, Old Chinese, Sèvres and English Porcelain', catalogue item 134, set of four armchairs with contemporary needlework covers.
Christie's, London, December 10, 1953, lot 27, six chairs from the collection of Viscount Clifden, K. C. V. O., Lanhydrock, Bodmin, Cornwall.
A pair was formerly in the collection of John L. McHugh, 1976.
Christie's, New York, October 12, and 13, 1995, The Property of a Private Collector, lot 192, pair of chairs.
Christie's, New York, 22 October, 2003, a pair of chairs from the collection of Nelson Grimaldi Seabra, lot 120.
A pair sold, Christie's, London, The Exceptional Sale, July 11, 2011, lot 21.
Ronald Phillips Ltd., London, Handbook, 2013, pp. 16-19, pair of chairs, with an illustration from Country Life showing the armchairs in situ at Wimpole Hall in 1927
C. Latham, In English Homes, 1909, vol. III, p. 279, The Long Drawing Room at Wimpole Hall, showing two settees and one armchair.
Christopher Hussey, Country Life 'Wimpole Hall Cambridgeshire II', May 28 1927, p. 279, The Gallery, formerly the Long Drawing Room, showing one of the chairs and a pair of settees.
Christopher Hussey, Country Life, 'Furniture at Wimpole Hall', November 28, 1931, pp. 590-591, figs. 4, 5, 6, illustrating one armchair, one settee with upholstered scrolled arms and a settee with carved wood arms.
John Cornforth, Country Life, 'Victorian Lanhydrock - II', February 23, 1978, p. 461, fig. 9, 'The Drawing Room', showing a pair of serpentine back upholstered settees from the suite.
Antiques Magazine, August, 1976, advertisement, Tepper Galleries, New York City, September 18, 1976, a pair of chairs from the collection of John L. McHugh.
For a closely related suite of chairs that is almost identical to the Wimpole Hall chairs other than having differently carved terminals to the arms, see:
A set of six chairs with needlework covers sold Christie's, London, July 17, 1930, lot 123, the property of Mrs. L. Urqhart, sold to F. Partridge & Sons, Ltd., £4,140.00, illustrated in Christie's Season 1930, London, 1930, pp. 312, 313. Four of these were subsequently in the possession of Messrs. Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd., London, and shown in their Exhibition (1939) of Old English Furniture, Needlework and Silver, no. 134.
Max Robertson, Going for a Song, London, 1969, p. 57, fig. 14, one of the Urquhart chairs.
For a closely related suite of George II walnut dining chairs from Wimpole Hall, see:
A side chair from the Collection of Francis Gerald Agar-Robartes, Esq., M.V.O. (Member of the Victorian Order), the 7th Viscount Clifden (1883-1966), Wimpole Hall, Royston, Cambridgeshire, illustrated, Lenygon, F., Furniture in England From 1660 to 1760, London: B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1920, 2nd ed., p. 60, fig. 84. The suite, acquired by Frank Partridge, Inc., New York, comprised at least twelve chairs and was sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, January 22, 1943, Property of Mrs. Frank D. Stout, January 22, 1943, lots 96 and 97.
The chairs were bought by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., and were sold in his sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, May 6-7, 1960, lots 531 and 532. Acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Harris Masterson III at the Chrysler sale, the suite was gifted in 1994 by the Mastersons to Rienzi, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, acc. no. 94.1197.1-.12.
C The Noel and Harriette Levine Collection
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