Lot Essay These handsome easy chairs are designed in the Roman fashion promoted by the Rome-trained artist architect William Kent (d.1748) on his appointment in 1726 as 'Master Carpenter' in George I's Architectural Board of Works. With their flowered backs, herm-pilaster legs and truss-scrolled arms imbricated with 'Venus' dolphin-scales and enriched with libation-patera, they relate to Kent's chair patterns invented around 1730 and published by his assistant John Vardy in Some Designs of Mr. Inigo Jones and Mr. William Kent, 1744, pls. 42 and 43. Closely related mahogany and parcel-gilt chairs were designed for General James Dormer (1679-1741) at Rousham, Oxfordshire, where Kent was employed in the late 1730s. The latter's seats were wreathed by a Vitruvian wave-scrolled ribbon of gimp (H. Hayward & P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, London, 1980, vol. I, p. 115, vol. II, fig. 67).
There exist several suites of Kent-designed seat furniture, possibly made by William Linnell. At the arcaded rustic garden pavilion or 'Praeneste' at Rousham, William Kent designed a set of seven curved benches, recorded in the 1742 inventory (U. Müller, Klassischer Geschmack und Gotische Tugend: Der Englische Landsitz Rousham, Worms, 1998, p. 269). These are almost identical to the set designed by Kent for Devonshire House, Piccadilly, c. 1735-40, now at Chatsworth, Derbyshire. Other similar benches are at Grimsthorpe, Lincolnshire and the Duke and Duchess of Ancaster were debtors of William Linnell on his death in 1763 (Hayward & Kirkham, op. cit., p. 86, n. 30). Hayward and Kirkham suggested that both William and John Linnell were employed by William Kent as cabinet-makers, having executed a table to Kent's design for James West at Alscot Park, Warwickshire in 1750 (ibid., p. 79). Furthermore, the suite of seat furniture at Osterley Park, supplied by the Linnells in c. 1759-63, after designs by Sir William Chambers, is closely related (in particular the raked square back legs) to the suite of seat furniture at Rousham, designed by Kent twenty years previously in c. 1738. Chambers admired Kent's furniture designs and although he is not known to have visited Rousham, he did visit houses to which Kent had supplied furniture. While the Linnells cannot yet be securely given as the cabinet-makers of the Rousham and Devonshire suite, the closeness of their own design of c. 1758-60 and derived from the latter (ibid., fig. 229), suggests they are the most likely firm for this commission and consequently the present chairs.
A set of five mahogany armchairs with similar profile of arm and with imbricated facings, was sold by the Harcourt Family, Sotheby's, London, 3 July 2003, lots 101-103. The latter were attributed to William Hallett on the basis of a 'Wainscott Press' supplied to General James Dormer for Rousham, in 1737. The Harcourt chairs, with their cabriole legs and paw feet, have a more Halletian feel than the present pair.
A related mahogany bergere and stool, with hermed and scale-imbricated legs capped by flowered tablets, formed part of the Foley family furnishings at Stoke Edith, Herefordshire (sold by the late Major H. T. H. Foley, Stoke Edith House, Russell, Baldwin & Bright (Auctioneers), 27 and 28 May 1964, lots 177 and 178).