Chair #53, Historicist Chairs, c.1820–1900

Chair, c.1820

Walnut, now with 17th-century silk damask

The design of this chair is derived from an early eighteenth-century Dutch model. This chair is one of a pair and was formerly in the collection of Percival D. Griffiths (1862–1937).


Adam Bowett Catalogue (19/08/2012)


A pair of chairs, c.1820, The tall narrow backs have an arched, scrolled crest rail over a baluster splat pierced with Berainesque motifs, between moulded S-scrolled uprights linked by a scrolled lower back rail. The seat is upholstered with close-nailed green silk damask and raised on carved cabriole forelegs with hoof feet, joined by a wavy, moulded, H stretcher to the scrolling back legs with raked heels.


H: 47 ½ ” (121cm) Seat height: 18 ½ ” (47cm) W: 21” (54cm) D: 22” (56cm)


Walnut, beech, ash, birch (?), oak

Dating criteria

These chairs are traditionally assigned to the early eighteenth century, either English or Ducth, but the condition, construction and materials used in this example indicate an early nineteenth century date. See additional remarks.


All visible parts of the chair are solid walnut. The back legs and posts extend in one piece to the crest rail, which is mortised on to the tops of the posts. The splat has a double tenon in to the crest rail and is also tenoned into the lower cross rail. This rail is fixed with bare-faced tenons into the back posts and secured by single pegs driven from the front. The seat rails are tenoned into the legs and secured at all points with a single peg. The rails are reinforced with shaped corner blocks fixed with two screws in the front corners and three screws in the rear. The stretcher is made in three sections; the side stretchers are tenoned into the legs at front and back; the medial stretcher is tenoned into the side stretchers and all joints are pegged with small pegs.


19.1 – Finish is very clean, with a light patination, deeper in carved recesses, edges and corners are sharp. There is a repaired break to the joint between the crest rail and the left rear post, there is some bruising and worm damage to both front feet, particularly the right front. The pegs at stretcher level are probably replaced. Corner blocks and pegging at seat level all original – the pegs penetrate the blocks, indicating the blocks were in situ when the pegs were drilled and driven in.

19.2 – Overall condition much as for 19.1. Repaired breaks to joints of crest rail with both back posts, secured with wooden pegs. Some worm damage to right front foot. Pegging of stretchers replaced. Right back foot has repaired break reinforced with plugged nails or screws.

Additional remarks

This type of chair is traditionally thought to be an early eighteenth century design associated, albeit tenuously, with Huguenot designer Daniel Marot. However, these examples appear to be unequivocally of early nineteenth-century manufacture. A number of observations support this conclusion. First, the exemplary condition, and in particular the crisp and fresh finish to the carvings and mouldings. Second, the style of corner blocking is a nineteenth-century one, the blocks are secured with screws of early nineteenth-century type. Third, the materials in the corner blocks (either birch or maple) are typically found in nineteenth-century British chair-making but very uncommon before 1800.

There is little doubt that the blocks are original to the chair. When removed, the surface of the rail to which they are attached is clean and un-patinated. Furthermore the blocks were clearly in-situ before the pegs were driven in.


W. Symonds, Old English Walnut and Lacquer Furniture, London, 1923, p. 44, pl. VI.

F.J. Rutherford, ‘The Furnishings of Hampton Court Palace’, Old Furniture, Vol. II, No.6 (November 1927), pp. 180-187.

Edwards (ed.), The Dictionary of English Furniture, 3 Vols. London (1954), I, p.253, fig. 82.
R. W. Symonds, English Furniture from Charles II to George II, London

(1929), p. 31, fig. 21.

Nicholas Grindley, The Bended Back Chair, exhibition catalogue, London (13-29 June 1990), no. 11.

Adam Bowett, ‘The India-back chair, 1715-40’, Apollo, CLVI, No. 491 (January 2003), pp. 3-9.


Percival D. Griffiths

S. Sykes
Purchased Gurr-Johns October 1991