The chair, from an enigmatic series long associated with the Conyers family from the North Riding of Yorkshire, is well documented. Reputedly found in Otley, Yorkshire, it then formed part of the Thomas Burn collection at Rous Lench Court, Worcestershire (dispersed by Sotheby’s in July 1986).
It was later sold by London dealer Alistair Sampson.
It came for sale last week as part of the collection of Robert Bruce Duncan (1943-2019) of Chicago and accordingly, as a work of art imported for sale from outside the EU, incurred an extra 5% VAT on the hammer price. With Bonhams’ four-tier premium rate added, the total bill for a lot knocked down at £35,000 was closer to £45,000.
In his book Oak Furniture: The British Tradition, Victor Chinnery deemed this ‘the most complete’ of four similar chairs that all have some later aggrandising additions. One (made in cedar) at Temple Newsam House, bears labels for Hornby Castle and Lady Glamis, daughter of the 10th Duke of Leeds.
Another, dated 1603, is at Norton Conyers Hall while a third chair in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, is said to have come from Wordsworth’s house in Ambleside.
Although traditionally associated with the Conyers at Hornby, the heraldic motifs to these chairs – horses or unicorns gorged and chained, a martlet, a lion rampant and the crest of a horned animal – are not those traditionally associated with the Dukes of Leeds.
Accordingly, their true origin may lie elsewhere, perhaps closer to south-west Scotland where they are thought to have been made.
The sale took place on February 19.