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A Very Rare Set of Twelve Early Regency Giltwood Dining Chairs

A Very Rare Set of Twelve Early Regency Giltwood Dining Chairs

Dimensions: H: 35 in / 89 cm  |  W: 19 in / 48 cm  |  D: 16 in / 40 cm


Attributed to Marsh & Tatham

The giltwood chairs in the Greek Revival style, with sabre legs to the front and back, the side seat rails of undulating outline with foliate relief carving continuing on the scrolled backrests. The original horsehair padded upholstery recently recovered.
English, Circa 1810

A rare survival of the Greek Revival in England, only a small number of related commissions and designs have been documented.

A related set of dining chairs forms part of the furniture at Buckingham Palace, of identical side profile to the present set, though lacking an upholstered back and differing in surface treatment. The royal set of chairs were made by Marsh & Tatham for the gothic dining room at Carlton House. This room was directly inspired by Walsh Porter’s dining room at Craven Cottage, a close friend of the Prince Regent who ultimately took over from Henry Holland as the chief interior designer of Carlton House (Collard p. 56). Holland’s Greco-roman vision for the furnishings of the princely palace nevertheless still held sway after his passing in 1806, as the dining chairs dating to 1813 are described as ‘Antique,’ referring to their classical design influences (Roberts p. 67 & p. 69, illus fig. 55 on p. 74).

Further clues pointing to Henry Holland’s influence are apparent when compared to the armchairs made for Southill (Watson pl. 46). Interestingly, a letter dated 1800 in the Southill archives mentions Marsh & Tatham as the employed cabinetmaker (Watson p. 38), who also supplied the dining chairs for the Royal household. Similarly, Holland’s late 18th century design of an armchair (set of four) for Sir William Lee at Colworth House, and later transferred to Hartwell (occupied from 1808-1815 by the exiled Louis XVIII) repeat the same form, and “must be by the same maker” (Jourdain p.18). Related to the Colworth House chairs is the important suite made for Harewood House (Christie’s 13 Dec 2019, lot 127-131), whose account books reveal substantial payments to Marsh & Tatham. The design was also seen on the set of six armchairs made for Lord Brownlow at Belton House, Lincolnshire (NT 434872).

A fascinating body of archival material relating to Henry Holland’s commissions--and the studies carried out by Charles Heathcote Tatham on his behalf--can be found in the archives of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Of particular note are the architectural sketches by Holland at RIBA for Carlton House which include scrollwork studies very closely aligned to the treatment of this giltwood set. Done at the close of the 18th century, these designs for the Royal residence on Pall Mall incorporate a nearly identical S-scroll motif issuing a half-anthemion (RIBA84226-7). Interestingly, an ink drawing by Charles Heathcote Tatham at the V&A of an ‘antique console’ in Rome provides the original source for the motif later proposed for Carlton House (V&A D.1484-1898). C.H. Tatham was sent to Rome by Henry Holland to collect Classical fragments and execute drawings to be used as design sources. It is certainly no coincidence the furniture made for Holland-designed projects was the work of Marsh & Tatham, its co-founder Thomas Tatham being the brother of C.H. Tatham. This relationship between Henry Holland and Marsh & Tatham is documented not only at Carlton House, but also at Southill, Harewood House, and Colworth.

Collard, Frances. Regency Furniture. Antique Collectors’ Club, 1985.

Jourdain, M, and Ralph Fastnedge. Regency Furniture 1795-1830. [4th ed.] ed., Country Life, 1965.

Roberts, Hugh. For the King’s Pleasure : The Furnishing and Decoration of George Iv’s Apartments at Windsor Castle. Royal Collection, 2001.

Watson, F.J.B. Southill, a Regency House. Faber and Faber, 1951

REF No. 9861

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