A fine pair of early George III carved mahogany Library Open Armchairsin the manner of Thomas Chippendale
Lot 19
A fine pair of early George III carved mahogany Library Open Armchairs
in the manner of Thomas Chippendale
Sold for £ 93,600 (US$ 124,368) inc. premium

Lot Details
A fine pair of early George III carved mahogany Library Open Armchairsin the manner of Thomas Chippendale A fine pair of early George III carved mahogany Library Open Armchairsin the manner of Thomas Chippendale A fine pair of early George III carved mahogany Library Open Armchairsin the manner of Thomas Chippendale A fine pair of early George III carved mahogany Library Open Armchairsin the manner of Thomas Chippendale
A fine pair of early George III carved mahogany Library Open Armchairs
in the manner of Thomas Chippendale
the curved padded rectangular closenailed backs, above padded outswept arms, with leaf and scroll arm terminals and 'S' shaped acanthus carved and moulded arm supports above bowed padded closenailed seats on cabriole leaf carved legs and scrolled feet,(2)


  • Property of a deceased Estate

    Believed to have belonged to the Marquess of Normanby, Mulgrave Castle, near Whitby
    Acquired by the owner from Charles Lumb & Sons Ltd, Harrogate, 1958 (£900).

    This pair of low backed French style armchairs is distinguished by its acanthus carved cabriole legs and delicate scrolled arms. The design of the chairs is related to Thomas Chippendale’s pattern for ‘French Chairs’ published on the left hand side of plate XIX of the third edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, 1763, although in this instance the back is taller than on the present examples.

    The chairs were acquired in September 1958 from the Harrogate Antique dealer Charles Lumb. In June of the same year, Lumb had advertised in the Connoisseur what appears to be the same, or a similar set with different upholstery (see illustration). The advertisement notes that the chairs were to be exhibited at the forthcoming ‘Eighth Northern Antique Dealers’ Fair’ at the Royal Hall, Harrogate in September of the same year, which is presumably where the last owner saw them. According to a contemporary valuation of the chairs, they formed part of a set of twelve chairs which had previously belonged to Lord Normanby.

    Although this seems to be the first time the Normanby provenance has been noted, other chairs from the same set first came on to the market in the late 1940’s when two armchairs were advertised by the York dealer Charles E. Thornton in the Antique Collector (September – October 1949) where they were described as ‘Two of a set of small Chippendale Armchairs’ (see illustration). Charles Thornton was a successful and influential dealer who supplied furniture to the collector Noel Terry, much of which is now displayed at Fairfax House, York.

    A further pair from the set sold Christies 5 July 1990, lot 122 and again Christies 8 July 1999, lot 15 (£122,000). Two other pairs from this set were sold by Jeremy Cotton Esq., Tythrop Park, Buckinghamshire, Christies 27 April 1995, lots 27 and 28 and another two pairs were advertised by Hotspur Ltd in the Grosvenor House Fair Exhibition Catalogue of 1998, two of which were illustrated in N.Goodison and R. Kern, Hotspur: Eighty Years of Antique Dealing, 2004, p.147, fig 13. Confusingly this last pair is mis-catalogued as being part of the famous giltwood suite from Brockenhurst Park Hampshire, some of which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    The Marquis of Normanby’s principal residence was Mulgrave Castle near Whitby in North Yorkshire. There is only one recorded sale of property from Mulgrave Castle which took place at Christie’s 18th July 1890 and comprised almost exclusively French furniture with nothing matching the description of the present chairs. Given that the chairs were first advertised in the late 1940’s, it seems most likely that the chairs left the Normanby collection at or around the time of the Second World War when - as is well known - many aristocrats sold furniture and paintings from their country house collections.

    Mulgrave Castle and the Normanbys

    Mulgrave Castle was built circa 1735 near the site of the Norman Castle which shares the same name. It was believed to have been built for Catherine Duchess of Buckingham, natural daughter of James II and wife of John Duke of Buckingham (see William Page (Ed.), Victoria County History,York North Riding, vol 2, 1923, pp.393-396.) The property descended to Constantine Phipps, grandson of Catherine, by her first marriage, with William Phipps, Esq., who was created Baron Mulgrave, of New Ross, County Wexford, in 1767. His son, Constantine John, second baron, was a distinguished Arctic explorer, who had no sons, so in 1792 when he died, the English title expired. The estates and the Irish barony descended to his brother, Henry Phipps, who was created a peer in 1794, and then in 1812, was created Viscount Normanby and Earl of Mulgrave.

    It was under this first earl of Mulgrave that the castle was remodelled between 1804 and 1811, by the architect William Atkinson (1773-1839). Atkinson was born in Northumberland and trained under James Wyatt before moving to London in the 1790’s. He became architect to the Board of Ordinance in 1813 and specialized in designing Gothic style country houses including Scone Palace, Chiddingsone Castle, Panshanger and Deepdene which Atkinson remodelled for Thomas Hope in 1818.

    The castle was described in ‘Lythe: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890’ as follows:

    It is an elegant mansion in the castellated style, erected about the middle of last century by Catherine, duchess of Buckingham, natural daughter of James II., and wife of John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham and Normanby. Within the grounds are the ruined keep, two circular towers, and a few other fragments of the ancient castle or fortress, from which the present mansion borrows its name.

    Some years earlier William Grange had described the castle in his book Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire, 1855, pp.304-5:

    The present mansion, the residence of the Marquis of Normanby, is also called Mulgrave Castle, and is an elegent castellated mansion, and forms a very conspicuous object from many points of view. The late Constantine John (sic), Lord Mulgrave, made considerable additions to the mansion and imporoved the gardens and grounds in the vicinity. In one of the offices, in the stable yard, is a splendid specimen of the Plesiosaurus Macrocephalus, being quite perfect, with the exception of a few joints which are wanting in one of the paddles….The situation of the mansion is elevated, and the views from it are romantic and highly beautiful, embracing a wide extent of hill and valley, wood and plain, sea and land.

    Henry Phipps died in 1831, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Constantine Henry, the second earl, who was made a Marquess in 1838. He was a distinguished statesman, diplomatist, and politician. He died in 1863, leaving an only child, George Augustus Constantine. The second Marquess held several distinguished appointments; he was comptroller of H.M. household, 1851-2; treasurer from 1853 to 1858; Lieut.Governor of Nova Scotia, 1858 to 1863; Governor and Commander-in-Chief of New Zealand, 1874 to 1878; and Governor of Victoria, 1878 to 1884.

    During the late 19th and early 20th century Mulgrave Castle had a very chequered history. In 1890 it was tenanted by Lord Hillingdon but a few years later the Rev. Constantine Phipps, the 3rd Marquess (1846-1932) turned the castle into a preparatory school enabling him to live and work (he taught divinity and French) in the same place. By May 1928 an advertisement appeared in The Times stating ‘Lord Normanby has instructed Messrs Curtis and Hansom (Mount Street) to let Mulgrave Castle near Whitby, furnished from June to end Sept, grouse and partridge shooting may be taken as well.’ At the beginning of the Second World War Mulgrave Castle was used as a home for evacuees, but by 1943 the then Lord Normanby, Oswald Phipps, 4th Marquess (1912-1994) returned to the Castle in triumph, having been repatriated after he was a taken as a prisoner of war in Germany. He came home to crowds of well wishers and made his way back to the Castle with his mother and sister (see Times 1st November 1943, p.6).


Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the private purchaser of these chairs in the 1940s believed that they came from a set of twelve chairs previously at Mulgrave Castle. The late vendor's journal records that he was told by his supplier, the dealer Charles Lumb, that these chairs were from the collection of Lord Normanby. We have been asked to state by Lord Normanby's family that there is no evidence that these chairs have come from Mulgrave Castle or the Normanby collection. Although the provenance is therefore not in the family's opinion Normanby or Mulgrave Castle, the chairs would have been commissioned for an important house. Bonham’s draws potential bidders attention to the fact the provenance is therefore not known at present.
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