IT was amongst the shaded woodland of the Thames Valley that Windsor chairs are thought to have originated. The forerunners of their kind may have been merely a humble form of seating, but, as two lots in forthcoming English furniture sales show, it wasn’t long before the form began to branch out.
Far from being modest and solely practical, the
gothic-style George III armchairs, pictured
right, to be offered at Sotheby's (20/12%
buyer's premium) Important English Furniture sale on
June 30 are exceptionally sophisticated. They have fine vaulted
tracery backs, instead of the usual triple splats found on most
gothic Windsors. They are also made of laburnum, whereas the vast
majority of these types of chairs are in yew. This particular pair
was resident in Keir House until 1983 and, as the catalogue entry
implies, may have been manufactured in Scotland using the
highly-prized regional laburnum found north of the border. They are
expected to make £60,000-80,000.
Not to be outdone, Christie's (19.5/12% buyer's
premium)Important English Furniture sale on July 1 also
includes a pair of fine George III Windsors, pictured
below right. They are painted with the arms of John Perceval,
second Earl of Egmont (1711-1770) impaling those of his second
wife, Catherine Crompton. With the date 1756 painted in Roman
numerals, they would appear to mark the occasion of their
An identical chair is held in the V&A. This Windsor was
once thought to be unique, but another Perceval-Compton chair
emerged out of the blue at Brightwell's in Leominster last year and
sold for £19,000 (plus 15% buyer's premium).
It has now been discovered that the armchairs formed part of
a set of eight that were sold as two separate lots at the auction
held at the former Perceval family seat of Enmore Castle, Somerset
in March 1899. The Christie's pair have been consigned by a
descendant of a buyer at this sale, Mrs Notley of Combe Sydenham
These chairs, with their faceted spindles in the back,
appear to be have been made in the West Country, possibly Bristol.
The spindles seem to have been cut with a draw knife rather than
turned on a lathe. It is most likely that they were made from
beech, walnut and elm, although the use of sycamore was not
uncommon in West Country chairs of this period. One leg and one
stretcher have been replaced to one of the pair. They are estimated
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