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The Warwick Castle Armchairs: A Pair of George II Mahogany Armchairs
England, 1745

A highly important pair of George II mahogany armchairs, the serpentine backs, seats and armrests upholstered in early 18th century Genoese polychrome silk velvet, the scrolled arms carved with leaf and shell motifs, standing on superb carved cabriole legs terminating in pad feet, on castors.

These chairs are first recorded in the Warwick Castle Inventory dated 1756, not the 1809 Inventory, as previously thought. They are listed as being in the Cedar Drawing Room – ‘12 Arm’d chairs of cut velvet,’ which confirms they must have must have been commissioned by Francis Greville, 1st Earl Brooke.

There are numerous old photographs showing these chairs in situ at Warwick Castle.

We are very grateful to Adam Busiakiewicz for this new information.

This magnificent pair of chairs appears to have originally formed part of a larger set of twelve armchairs, three stools and possibly two settees that are referred to in various major inventories of the collections at Warwick Castle compiled in 1756, 1809, 1853 and 1894.

The chairs are first mentioned in a 1756 inventory in the Cedar Drawing Room as ’12 Arm’d chairs of cut velvet’ (WCRO 1886 TN926). The chairs are again mentioned in an 1809 inventory of the Cedar Room as: ’12 mahogany chairs, stuff’d back & elbows & tapestry covers’ ‘2 mahogany stools, stuff’d and covered’.

It is most likely that they were probably commissioned by Francis, 8th Baron Brooke (1719–1773), who was created 1st Earl Brooke of Warwick Castle in 1746 and 1st Earl of Warwick in 1759. In 1742, he had married Elizabeth, the daughter of Lord Archibald Hamilton, younger brother of William, Duke of Hamilton. The date of the armchairs corresponds closely to this marriage which is likely to have brought about re-decoration and re-furnishing of the State Rooms at Warwick.

The magnificent polychrome silk panels, circa 1735-1740, used to upholster these chairs, are Italian in origin. These woven velvets and silk brocades, referred to as ‘Genoese’, were produced in narrow widths which, as can be seen with our chairs, resulted in joining panels. These panels at the time were incredibly expensive to purchase, and were considered an ultimate luxury and status symbol. The ‘Genoa’ velvet on the present chairs also closely compares with that on the Nottingham State Bedroom Suite.

Height 111.00cm (43.70 inches)
Width 73.00cm (28.74 inches)
Depth 73.00cm (28.74 inches)


Provenance

Probably Francis Greville, 8th Baron Brooke, 1st Earl Brooke and 1st Earl of Warwick (1719 – 1773) for Warwick Castle
Thence by descent

Reference - M08.73