The George III giltwood open armchairs with palmette medallion carving were being deaccessioned at Brunk Auctions by ‘an important Southern institution’ with an earlier provenance to the collection of Edwin Herzog of New York and Charleston.
The design of these chairs is one associated with the architect James ‘Athenian’ Stuart (1713-88) and the fashionable London cabinetmakers John Gordon and John Tait, working at the time in Golden Square.
Similar chairs were made for John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer (1734-83) at Spencer House in Westminster. When the current earl, Charles Spencer, sold some of the furnishings from the house at Christie’s in London in 2010, pairs of chairs from two suites dated c.1758-65 were offered - those in the exotic West Indian hardwood sabicu and others with a white-painted and parcel-gilt finish ‘in the French manner’.
The pair at Brunk were probably from a set from Nuneham Park in Oxfordshire, commissioned by the British diplomat and general Simon Harcourt (1714-77), 1st Earl Harcourt. He held close ties to the Spencer family.
According to the auction house, the chairs were in a fine state of overall preservation and retained most of their original gilt surface. Estimated at $30,000-50,000, they hammered for $120,000 plus 23% buyer’s premium.
The eight armchairs in the Christie’s Spencer House sale were sold in pairs for sums from £120,000 for those in giltwood up to £650,000 for a pair in sabicu.