A set of six George III mahogany hall chairs by Gillow
Lot 72
A set of six George III mahogany hall chairs by Gillow
Sold for £10,625 (US$ 18,190) inc. premium
Lot Details
A set of six George III mahogany hall chairs
by Gillow
The solid shaped backs or circular form on inverted scroll moulded supports, centred by polychrome decorated armorials for the Curwen family of Workington Hall and the motto "SI JI NESTOY, the solid shaped seats on ring turned tapering legs and toupie feet, all of the chairs signed in pencil J.Hardy, one chair dated 3 September 1799, five of the chairs numbered in chalk sequentially 126-130.(6)

Footnotes

  • Provenance: John Christian Curwen (1756-1828) of Workington Hall, Cumbria and thence by family descent.

    The above lot was part of a large consignment of furniture (totalling £756 6s 1 ½ d ) made for Workington Hall in Cumbria dated 1 November 1788. Workington was the property of the heiress Isabella Curwen, a great beauty who aged 17 years, eloped with her guardian John Christian , they were married in Edinburgh in October 1782 , this was John Christian's second marriage. John Christian, a Member of Parliament for Workington, was a champion of the working man, with ideas years ahead of time, including advocating the founding of the National Health Service, and his ideas revolutionised agriculture in the 18th century. His cousin was Fletcher Christian of Mutiny on the BOUNTY fame. It was an important commission for the Lancaster branch of the Gillows firm and because they became upholsterers in around 1785, it meant that they could make more money than previously by providing carpets, curtains, blinds, beds and bed furniture etc. in addition to the furniture. Therefore, the Christian commissions for the three houses he owned in Cumbria marked a turning point in the Lancaster firm's history.

    The set of hall chairs, were probably made for John Christian Curwen in 1799. Several chairs are inscribed in pencil with the signature of 'J. Hardy' and one has the date ' 3 Sept. 1799' inscribed under the seat, Unfortunately Gillow's Petty Ledger has not survived for 1799, so the journeyman cannot be identified. Gillows made an earlier set of hall chairs for John Christian were made for his house on Belle Isle, Lake Windermere by Gillows in 1784 (see S.Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840, Vol.1, p.200, plate 173, 174); and these hall chairs like the Belle Isle examples have oval backs with the Curwen crest painted in a circular cartouche in the centre of their oval backs. The late 18th century examples were made to a design drawn in the Estimate Sketch Book in 1797, first made for Lady Gardner [344/97, p.1331, 30 March, 1797], except that the Gardner chairs had a circular back instead of an oval one. Curwen probably asked Gillows to make them with oval backs like the original set made in 1784 for Belle Isle. No waste or Order Books have survived for 1799, but the Ledger for this period shows that John Christian Curwen of Workington Hall purchased unidentified 'stock' on 9 October 1799 valued at £30 8 0d, and on 6 November 'stock' at £9 14s od [344/45, p.45]. Hall chairs of this style in 1797 cost Gillow customers about 25s each, so included in either of these autumn orders may have been these chairs with their distinctive 'bell' seats fashionable at this period. Hall chairs of this period were protected with many layers of varnish, as Gillows noted alongside the drawing 'nb. 4 Hall chairs takes ½ pint of varnish per 0 2 0 [2s.], Thomas Romney 4 hours labour 0 1 0 [1s]' [344/97, p.1331].

    Our thanks to Dr Susan Stuart for the compiling of this footnote.
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