A important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising of twelve open
Lot 12
An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt salon suite comprising twelve open armchairs and a pair of sofas attributed to William and John Linnell
Sold for £70,000 (US$ 85,313) inc. premium

Lot Details
An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising twelve open armchairs and a pair of sofas attributed to William and John Linnell An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising twelve open armchairs and a pair of sofas attributed to William and John Linnell An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising twelve open armchairs and a pair of sofas attributed to William and John Linnell An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising twelve open ar An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising twelve open ar An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising twelve open ar An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt Salon Suite comprising twelve open ar A set of twelve George III giltwood armchairs and two settees possibly by John Linnell circa 1775 A set of twelve George III giltwood armchairs and two settees possibly by John Linnell circa 1775 A set of twelve George III giltwood armchairs and two settees possibly by John Linnell circa 1775 A set of twelve George III giltwood armchairs and two settees possibly by John Linnell circa 1775 A set of twelve George III giltwood armchairs and two settees possibly by John Linnell circa 1775 A set of twelve George III giltwood armchairs and two settees possibly by John Linnell circa 1775
An important and rare George III white painted and parcel gilt salon suite comprising twelve open armchairs and a pair of sofas
attributed to William and John Linnell
The shaped padded oval backs within bead and reel moulded frames, surmounted by carved swagged anthemion, above outswept leaf carved padded arms with leaf carved arm terminals, the downswept bead and bellflower, acanthus carved arm supports, on padded seats and bellflower carved seatrails centred by tablets of swagged drapery, on square tapering similarly carved legs headed by paterae, on ogee feet, upholstered in 1920's quilted brocade, slight differences in the carving, some carved paterae replaced, decoration refreshed, one seatrail signed, 'Repd 1831 by George Gauntlett', one sofa seatrail numbered 1763, one chair seatrail numbered 1775, one chair seatrail with chairmaker's pencil workings.(14)


  • The Place Suite
    "The most elaborate room is the drawing room, which looks south and east over the harbour. It contains a beautiful and unusually large set of twelve arm chairs and two sofas. They are English but in the French taste, and in their elegance and lightness form a complete contrast to the apparently massive ceiling ..."
    John Cornforth, Country Life, June 1962

    Believed to have been acquired by Joseph Thomas Austen Treffry (1782-1850) and in-situ at Place, Fowey, Cornwall by 1831,
    by descent to The Rev. Edward John Wilcocks Treffry (1809-1880),
    thence by family descent at Place to the present owner.

    Illustrated in-situ in the Drawing Room at Place in J.Cornforth, Place, Fowey, Cornwall –II, The Home of Mrs Treffry, Country Life,, 28 June 1962, p.1570, fig.6.

    John Keast, The King of Mid-Cornwall – the life of Joseph Thomas Treffry, 1983
    John Keast, The Book of Fowey, 1987
    Ann Rideout, The Treffry Family, 1984
    Helena Hayward and Pat Kirkham, William and John Linnell, 2 Vols, 1980
    R.Symons, A Geographical Dictionary or Gazetteer of Cornwall, 1884

    The present set of 12 chairs and 2 settees has provenance from Place, Fowey, Cornwall where it has stood in the dining room since at least 1831. During the second half of the eighteenth century - when the suite would have been made - the Treffry family were struggling with financial difficulties, and Place itself had fallen into disrepair. It seems most likely therefore, that the suite was acquired during the first half of the 19th century when the family fortunes were revived by Joseph Thomas Treffry, an entrepreneur who made his money from mining and who was first Sherriff of Cornwall and Chairman of the Cornwall Railway Company. Painted onto the underside of one of the chairs is an inscription reading 'George Gauntlett, 1831'. Gauntlett was employed by Treffry to execute much of the decorative carving in the house as well as to completely remodel the drawing room. It appears therefore that Gauntlett restored the suite at this time, a supposition which is confirmed by recent paint analysis which indicates that there were only two schemes of decoration by the mid 19th century. Extensive research amongst the Treffry papers held at the Cornwall Record Office, has still not revealed the full history of this suite, but some very interesting possibilities have emerged which are discussed in the following note.

    The Treffrys at Place, Fowey
    Place is situated in a secluded position high up in the village of Fowey, its towers and fortifications can be seen from the town while the house itself looks over the Fowey river. Fowey was one of the most significant ports in the west of England until the mid 16th century. The Treffry family's history at Fowey can be traced back to the 14th century when Thomas Treffry of Treffry married Elizabeth Bonyface, an heiress with interests in Fowey. In the 15th century several generations of the family held the position of Collector of the Customs for the Port of Plymouth and Cornwall and later generations assumed the role of Surveyor of Customs for the Port of London, increasing the family's standing and influence. In the 16th century it was Thomas Treffry, the builder and Captain of Henry VIII's artillery fort, St.Mawes Castle, and his heirs that were responsible for the basic form of Place as it stands today. Few alterations were made to the house in the 17th century. The direct line of the Treffry family failed three times in the following two centuries, but on each occasion the Treffry name and arms were adopted by royal licience.
    In the late 18th century the house had fallen into a poor state of repair and the estate was impoverished. The house had been affected by the broken succession and the declining status of Fowey, that was by the late 18th century a rotten borough, and the Treffry family largely withdrew from public life and were overtaken in public standing by the Rashleighs of Menabilly. I. Francis Grosse in his The Antiquities of England and Wales, published 1773-87 noted that:

    "the castellated mansion mentioned by Leland is still standing, though much out of repair. The tower on the north east angle has fallen down and many other parts seem likely to follow"

    The only record of work on the house during the 18th century is contained in a fifty page document written by Joseph Thomas Austin Treffry some years later, where he states that the east front of the house had been built in 1737-8 at the same time as the remodelling of the library; the east wing was then rebuilt again around 1790 utilising the remains of an early tower which had fallen down in the 1770s. When William Treffry died in 1779 the estate was passed to William's two sisters, one of whom, Susannah, married Joseph Austin of Plymouth and was the mother of Joseph Thomas Austin who adopted the name Treffry in 1836 and was to buy his cousins out of their interests in Place and was he who was responsible for the rebirth of the house as it is today.

    Joseph Thomas Austen Treffry
    Having started out with a lime kiln, Treffry moved into mining and established the Fowey Consolidated Mines Company in 1822 - a company comprising four troubled copper mines. He was constantly developing new ideas and in 1823 he constructed a three mile long water course to work water-wheels. In 1829 he built Par Harbour and a few years later bought Newquay harbour. He became involved with the railways, creating the link between Fowey and Par and later Newquay and mid Cornwall. His business interests were exhaustive and he soon became a key figure in the Cornish Industrial Revolution. Additionally he began to take an interest in Fowey politics becoming first Sherriff of Cornwall in 1838 and Chairman of the Cornwall Railway Company. At the time of Joseph Treffry's death he was an Industrial and Mining magnate. Sixteen thousand mourners were recorded at his funeral.

    Joseph Thomas Austen Treffry's re-modelling of Place
    Joseph Treffry came to Place with his widowed mother Susanna in 1786; she had inherited the property from her brother some eight years earlier but it was not until 1813 that work began in earnest on remodelling the house. Joseph was a driving force behind the 19th century alterations to the house as he began to change the east front in around 1817 when he had finally managed to secure the services of a mason who could work effectively in the Gothic style. He made his first plans for re-modelling the house in 1813 and work continued until 1845. The Tudor parts of the house were largely rebuilt and Treffry was clearly an exponent of Victorian romanticism and the associated pride in ancestry that accompanied it.

    The most elaborate room at Place is the Drawing room which was based on a Tudor panelled room with the addition of a large central ceiling boss and grotesque masks around the cornicing. This was the work of George Gauntlett, whose signature and date 1831 appears to the underside of one of the chairs as already discussed, showing that the suite formed part of the furnishings at Place by this date. Gauntlett is thought to have been employed to execute much of the decorative carving in the house until Treffry considered that Gauntlett's drinking had rendered him un-employable. Gauntlett seems likely to be the George Gauntlett, listed as a carver in 1823, at Combe Street, Exeter and later at Paul Street and Friar's Terrace. (G.Beard and C.Gilbert, The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, London 1986, p. 333). Much of Gauntlett's decorative detailing gives Place its individual nature and the feeling of a highly personal interpretation of the Elizabethan style.
    Treffry was to continue his programme of building works in to the 1840's and the extent and obscurity of the decoration increased with the passing years descending into a virtual fantasy world, the staircase being decorated with serpents coiling around tree trunks, angular dolphins forming balustrades, toads and crab-like creatures. In 1841 Treffry added a granite tower called the Porphyry Hall with its walls clad in red polished Cornish granite-porphyry.
    On the 8th September 1846, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria made a state visit to Fowey and included a tour of Place on their itinerary – a clear indication of Joseph Treffry's high social status at the time. Although it was described at length in the newspapers and in the Illustrated London News, it is Joseph Treffry's own description of the visit that is the most enlightening:

    I there with Captain Davis received them and conducted them into the drawing room. On entering the Hall, Her Majesty pointed out to the Prince the porphyry floor. From the drawing room they passed through the sitting parlour into the large breakfast room where there were paintings of Place and the Viaduct, the former of which the Queen appeared to view with much attention. From thence they passed into the dining room into the library where stood a model of Restormel Castle which I offered to Her Majesty for the Duke of Cornwall and which was graciously accepted. In returning through the dining room, the porphyry slab supported as a sideboard on a frame of oak taken from the beams of the Ballerophon, attracted the particular attention of Her Majesty and the Prince; when I offered to them a similar slab, and which was also graciously accepted. From thence we went to the Porphyry Hall, and on entering which Her Majesty made a full stop opposite the great arch and raising her hands to the arch exclaimed, 'That is magnificent!' The Prince, however, told her that he thought the Jasper stone on the western side of the hall was the prettiest stone that he ever saw, and the Queen agreed with him that it was very beautiful. Form the Porphyry Hall I escorted them into the churchyard where I took my leave from them.
    Rideout, op.cit, p.85

    The Queen and Prince Albert must indeed have been impressed for only five years later in 1851 the Treffry's were exhibiting their precious stones at the Great Exhibition. Soon afterwards, writing to The Times in May 1858, Joseph Treffry's cousin Edward described the porphyry sarcophagus which had been supplied by the family to hold the remains of the Duke of Wellington in St Paul's Cathedral at a cost of £1,000.

    The Place Suite
    The inscription by George Gauntlett to the underside of one of the chairs confirms that the suite was certainly in-situ at Place by 1831 but it would seem unlikely that a suite of this size and type, with its sophisticated neo-classical decoration would have been commissioned for the house.

    The Treffry family fortunes in the third and fourth quarters of the 18th century would have made this type of extravagant purchase unlikely. It seems most probable that Treffry either bought the suite second-hand or was gifted it by an associate. Treffry's closest friend of any standing was George Lucy of Charlecote in Warwickshire. In 1820 Joseph Treffry persuaded Lucy to advance him some money so he could reopen the Wheal Treasure Mine. Their relationship prospered and by the end of the same year when Lucy was elected M.P. to the seat of Fowey, Joseph Thomas was acting as his agent. It also seems significant that between 1829 and 1836, the Lucy family were extending and redecorating their Elizabethan house Charlecote – one of the most important revivalist interiors and the two men certainly discussed matters of decoration and furnishings in their correspondence. Amongst the papers at Cornwall Record Office is a record that the Treffrys spent Christmas at Charlecote in 1834 and a letter dated December 1835 in which George Lucy thanks Joseph for two pictures, and a 'Madrapore marble slab on an ebony frame with twisted legs'. (CRO DD.TF.900). It is not too far fetched to suppose that Treffry may have given these objects to George Lucy 'in return' for the suite although there is currently no documentary evidence to support it.

    Other possibilities for the origin of the suite could be the home of fellow mining magnate Sir Charles Lemon Bart (1784-1868). Lemon's house Carclew was only a few miles away from Place and was undergoing alterations in the 1830's under the direction of the architect Henry Harrison (1785-1865). Harrison was also remodelling another house nearby, Enys House home of John Samuel Enys (1796-1872), High Sherriff of Cornwall, who Treffry must also have known well at the time. (see Howard Colvin, 'A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1660-1840', 1995, p.464)

    Design of the Suite
    The neo-classical style of the suite does not correspond with any other furniture or decorative schemes at Place. This style began to filter through to Britain from France in the late 1760s to early 1770s largely through the published works of architects such as Delafosse and Gilles-Marie Oppenrod. Rejecting the sinuous curves of the rococo, neo-classicism saw a return to the classical orders and symmetry of the English Palladian designers, such as William Kent, in the first half of the century but with a new emphasis on subtlety and elegance. However, it was not until the publication of Robert and James Adam'sWorks in Architecturein 1773 and 1777 (featuring Robert Adam's neo-classical interiors at houses such as Kenwood (1768-1771) and Osterely Park (1767-1780) that the new style superseded the mid century eclecticism of the Rococo, Chinese and Gothic epitomised by Chippendale's Director.

    John Linnell's apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker was unusual; in addition to training with his father William's firm on Long Acre he also attended Hogarth's St Martin's Lane Academy where he studies drawing and design in an international, intellectual environment. John Linnell's artistic talent had an immediate impact upon the firm, when he joined his father full time in 1753, specialising in rococo design. Linnell's talent combined with his St Martin's Lane connections meant that, far in advance of most cabinet-makers, he was aware of Delafosse and experimenting with neo-classicism by 1760. His designs from this period show that Linnell was experimenting with the new style and the results were both novel and eclectic as he cast about for new combinations of form and ornament. By 1762 Linnell was working with Robert Adam at Kedleston Hall, followed by Osterley Park in 1767. Through his direct contact with Adam, the eclectic designs of Linnell were gradually replaced with an increasingly refined, pure neo-classicism that was fully established by 1775.

    The Place Suite does bear certain typical Linnell characteristics. The palm clasps where the arms join the back which appear on numerous chairs attributed to Linnell including on a set of eight open armchairs attributed to John Linnell and sold Christie's London 7th July 1988, lot 141. The swagged drapery tablet is a device used on other neo-classical suites including that at on a suite originally at Saltram, Devon and sold from there in 1920 by the 4th Lord Morley, see G.Beard and J.Goodison, English Furniture 1500-1840, Oxford, 1987, p.176, pl.1. The pierced anthemion and drapery swagged cresting appears on a pair of chairs attributed to William and John Linnell sold Christie's New York, 18th October 2001, lot 166, and another indentical pair sold Christie's New York, 12 April 1996, lot 27 and a single chair sold Sotheby's New York, 14 & 15 April 2000, lot 326. The matching sofa is illustrated in P.Johnson, The Phillip's Guide to Chairs, London, 1989, p.88; The above mentioned chairs and sofa relate in overall form to seat furniture supplied to Robert Child at Osterley Park and correspond to a Robert Adam design, see H.Hayward P.Kirkham, William and John Linnell, Vol.II, p.47, fig.92 and 94. The use of a 'bead and reel' pattern moulding to decorate the frame is a more unusual decorative device on a neo-classical chair. It can be seen on a set of four mahogany armchairs in the collection of the Sir John Soane Museum, which were purchased by Soane in 1829, see The Journal of the Furniture History Society, London 2008, p.100, cats 97-100.

    Under analysis the suite reflects three schemes of decoration. The original decoration appears to be have been part greyed-white oil paint and part water gilding. The second scheme of decoration appears to be a repeat of the first. The present scheme again follows the same pattern but the gold has been applied in an old gilding technique. The white paint used is still based on a traditional lead white and the yellow oil size contains a little lead white as well as the ochre, so the scheme is unlikely to date much later than the third quarter of the 19th century, after which the yellow oil size tends not to contain lead white. A copy of the paint analysis report is available from the department on request.
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