English Open Armchair(SOLD)


?Pair of identical chairs (almost certainly from the same suite) ?are presently on offer from Hyde Park Antiques, New York for US$78,000 plus tax.


Date: 1775
Material: Gilt Beech
Origin: England

Just back from the gilders, gleaming in 24 carats, is an English open armchair, circa 1775, attributable to the celebrated London cabinetmaker John Linnell. Particularly distinctive is the arm. Each arm ends in a ball clasped by leaves, which is a recurrent motif in Linnell’s documented oeuvre. This finial is found, for example, on a suite of seating furniture supplied to Inverary Castle, between 1775 and 1778, as well as on a suite of lyreback armchairs supplied to Osterley Park circa 1768.

Linnell’s drawing (Victoria & Albert E. 82 1929) in pen and ink and water-colour, 1770-75 shows what could indeed be our chair. The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840 asserts that “Six carved and gilt armchairs [made for the 5th Duke of Argyll].......can be attributed to the firm as they closely follow [the] Linnell drawing in the V & A” (as illustrated). In this drawing the upholstery is red, the frame yellow, probably indicating gilding.

Of further interest is the Victorian retailer’s metal plaque (probably 1880s) nailed to the interior of the rear rail of our chair. Historical records show that it was commonplace for a decorating firm to reuse old furniture. It is almost certain that at this time the chair was painted with Victorian gold paint which contained brass powder. This brass oxidises to a sad greenish colour. Unfortunately, we could not remove the paint while saving the original gilding underneath; hence the replaced goldleaf. Later, the chair was sprung and reupholstered, hiding the retailers tag till just last year.

The opulent upholstery, over horsehair pads, is an accurate reproduction of an appropriate period jacquard supplied by Redelman’s, and incorporates Vitruvian scrolls and NeoClassical cartouches.

A chair from the same suite appears on page 99 of Mallett's Great English Furniture by Lanto Synge (London, 1991). Mallett & Son of Bond street is one of the most prestigious antique shops in the world and this book is record of some of the great pieces they have sold.

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