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The Hanbury Hall Chairs: A Pair of George II Mahogany Side Chairs
England, circa 1735

An exceptional pair of George II mahogany side chairs attributed to William Hallett. The seat covers with early eighteenth century French needlework, worked in polychrome wools and silks in gros-point and petit-point, the seat back vertical cartouche enclosing Chinoiserie figures flanking a very unusual wine press, surrounded by accessories, and the seats with a horizontal cartouche enclosing an elaborate water cistern flanked by exotic animals, surrounded by exuberant scrolling leaves, against a cream coloured ground, worked in gros-point, with concealed brass and leather castors.

This very fine pair of chairs has an interesting and illustrious history, tracing back to two distinguished houses. The chairs are photographed in situ at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, circa 1916 along with other pieces from the original suite, which comprises of six chairs, one wing armchair, and one sofa.

Hanbury Hall was the residence of the Vernon family since 1631, and they donated the home to the National Trust in 1940. The original Georgian furnishings of the hall do not survive because of a scandal within the family. Emma Vernon (1755-1818) inherited the hall in 1771 and set about redecorating the sitting room and drawing room, as well as replacing the formal gardens with ‘natural’ gardens made popular by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. When Emma eloped with the local curate, her husband Henry Cecil closed the hall and sold all of the furniture and art. Emma returned to the hall in 1804 with her third husband and proceeded to redecorate the hall again.

However, the suite of seat furniture does not appear in the 1840 inventory of the hall, which suggests that the suite of furniture was likely acquired as part of the collection of Thomas Bowater Vernon (1832-1859), who renovated and altered the hall between 1856 and 1859.

Alternatively, his brother, Sir Harry Foley Vernon, 1st Baronet (1834-1920) may have acquired them after he inherited the hall upon his brother’s death in 1859. Sir harry married Lady Georgina Baillie-Hamilton, daughter of the 10th Earl of Haddington, in 1861.

The suite of furniture was sold when Sir Harry died in 1920, at which point they were acquired for Upton House, Warwickshire by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882-1948). Bearsted was the chairman of Shell oil, which had been founded by his father, and was a great philanthropist of his day. He was incredibly knowledgale about art and served as the Chairman of the National Gallery as well as acting as a Trustee of the Tate Gallery and Whitechapel Art Gallery. Bearsted amassed an incredible collection of paintings and porcelain during his lifetime. Bearsted’s collection of English furniture was also notable and included the exceptional ‘Apollo’ side tables attributed to Benjamin Goodison, formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Chandos and Buckingham. He bought Upton House in 1927, and the suite of seating furniture is photographed in situ in 1936. A great deal of his collection went to the National Trust upon his death in 1948, however the suite of seat furniture remained with the family until 1998 when it was sold at auction.

William Hallett
These chairs are attributed to Hallett because of striking stylistic similarities to a known suite of walnut seat furniture by the cabinetmaker supplied to Arthur Ingram, 6th Viscout Irwin (1689-1736). The bill for the Irwin suite included eighteen chairs costing £20 14 0 and two sofas £4 18 0, and it was written up in an article by Christopher Gilbert in 1964 as ‘Newly Discovered Furniture by William Hallett,’ (Connoisseur, December 1964, pp. 224-225). This suite incorporates almost identical carved scallop motifs and ringed claw and ball feet.

French Needlework
The finely worked early eighteenth century French needlework features colourful acanthus-wrapped and ribboned arabesques woven on a golden ground. The scenes depicted on the cartouches feature three recurring designs: two of the designs are figurative and one depicts mythical aniamls. Lucy Wood, in her seminal publication, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, suggested that it is certainly possible that the needlework and frames have always been together. She suggests that the deep-sided sofa fits the panels ‘remarkably well’ and that the English frames may have been made to fit the imported panels (vol I, p. 328). The central tent stitched cartouches feature flowered brackets and fanciful Oriental scenes depicting classic activities including weaving and wine-making. The seat cartouches show vignettes of umbello’d and dragon-guarded tazzae of fruit.

The inspiration for these scenes come from Chinese woodblock prints and porcelain ornamentation from the Kangxi period (1662-1722). There are similar examples of ornament on mid-18th century French giltwood fauteuils by Pierre Bara in the Drawing Room at Scone Palace.

The needlework is attributed to the workshop of the tapissier Planqué at St. Cyr. The convent school of St Cyr was founded by Mme de Maintenon (1635-1719) after her marriage to Louis XIV in 1683 and opened in 1686.

Height 102.00cm (40.16 inches)
Width 76.00cm (29.92 inches)
Depth 76.00cm (29.92 inches)


Possibly acquired for Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, by Thomas Bowater Vernon (1832-1859) or Sir Harry Foley Vernon, 1st Baronet (1834-1920)
Accquired by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, M.C. (1882-1948), for the Long Gallery, Upton House, Warwickshire circa 1927
Thence by descent until sold Christie’s London, 8 July 1998, lot 94


H. Avray Tipping, English Homes Period IV – Vol. 1 Late Stuart, 1649-1714, 1920, Hanbury Hall, pp.397-404, figs. 490 & 492, shown in situ in the Hall and beneath the painted staircase
A. Oswald, ‘Upton House, Warwickshire – I,’ Country Life, 5 September 1936, p. 251, fig. 8, shown in situ in the Long Gallery
G. Jackson-Stops, Upton House, The National Trust, 1980, p. 12, shown in situ in the Long Gallery
S. Murray, ‘Upton House, Warwickshire,’ Country Life, 11 June 1992, p. 144, fig. 4, shown in situ in the Long Gallery
J. Haworth & G. Jackson-Stops, Hanbury Hall, The National Trust, 1994, p. 7, shown in situ in the Hall and beneath painted staircase

Reference - M05.28