We recently did a post highlighting the importance of viewing furniture, and in particular chairs, from different angles. One of the chairs we focused on was a wonderful George II walnut gainsborough chair attributed to Giles Grendey. Today we are going to take a closer look at this chair and its stylistic influences and historical context.
To start with the basics: this very fine George II walnut Gainsborough chair features a rectangular upholstered backrest flanked a pair of upholstered outswept armrests raised on supports carved with acanthus decoration. The square seat is raised on cabriole legs and headed by a rocaille-cartouche surrounding a flower head above carved acanthus brackets, and it terminates in hairy paw feet on castors. The rail features a white painted monogram ‘J.B.W.’
Giles Grendey was a leading London cabinet maker, born in Wooton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire. He was the apprentice to the London joiner William Sherborne, becoming a freeman in 1716. Taking his own apprentices by 1726, Grendey was elected to the Livery of the Joiners’ Company in 1729. His first workshop was at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, and he moved to St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell in 1772 where he developed a thriving export trade.
There is not a great deal of extant information on Grendey’s English clients, however there is a bill from Richard Hoare of Barns Elms, Surrey that is dated 1723 and includes a chest of drawers, a ‘Burow Table,’ dressing glasses, chimney glasses, and a ‘Wrighting Disk.’ Henry Hoare’s account book, from Stourhead, lists payments between 1746-56 for £46 for chairs. Lord Scarsdale of Kedleston Hall, perhaps the most prominent known patron, acquired ‘1 Fine Jamai. Mahog. Plank’ for £21 in 1762. He also provided furniture for Sir Jacob de Bouverie at Longford Castle.
This chair bears close resemblance to the suite of ten armchairs provided to the Hon. George Shirley (1705-1787) at Ettington Park, Warwickshire. The chairs remained at the house until the set was sold in the 1946 house sale.