A Matter of Provenance

An extraordinary and highly important pair of William III – Queen Anne side chairs have recently arrived in the gallery. Dating to the turn of the century, circa 1700, and attributed to Philip Guibert, these magnificent chairs boast a very full provenance: it is fascinating to trace their history.

The provenance reads:

Almost certainly originally supplied to Sir Thomas Osborne, 1st Duke of Leeds (d.1712) for either Kiveton Park, Yorkshire, or Wimbledon, Surrey
Probably the suite recorded in an inventory of Kiveton dated 1727, p. [8], probably in the best/state drawing room on the second floor — “14 Chairs & 2 Stools frames Black & Gold. Cover’d wth flowred Velvt. trim’d wth guilt Mouldings and Serge Cases. / 1 Large Seat Ditto”.
Thence by descent at Hornby Castle, Yorkshire to George Godolphin Osborne, 10th Duke of Leeds (1862 – 1927)
Christie’s, London, 10 June 1920, lot 114
Acquired by Moss Harris, London
Private Collection, UK
Sold Sotheby’s, London, 29 January 1960, lot 118
The suite, comprising a settee, single chairs and stools, was advertised for sale by W. Waddingham of London and Harrogate in Apollo Magazine, vol. LXXVIII, no. 22 (December 1963)
The collection of Baron Phillipe de Rothschild (who gave one pair to the Victoria & Albert Museum)
The remaining six acquired by Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd., London, 1965
The collection of Mr and Mrs I. W. Colburn, Chicago (who gave one pair to the Museum of Fine Art, Boston in 2001, and presumably the pair of the Art Institute of Chicago.)
This, the last remaining pair, with Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd., London, 2001
Private Collection, UK

These extraordinary chairs form part of a larger suite of seat furniture consisting of at least eight chairs, a pair of stools and one settee. The other three pairs of chairs are deposited in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The settee was sold Sotheby’s London, 29 January 1960.

The chairs were first recorded in an article about Hornby Castle in Country Life, vol. XX, 14 July 1906 p.54-64.

Much of the early furniture sold from Hornby Castle in 1920 is assumed to have come there from Kiveton Park in Yorkshire. Kiveton was built by Sir Thomas Osborne,  1st Duke of Leeds between 1694 – 1704, and these chairs were almost certainly commissioned by the Duke at this time.

Hornby Castle came to the Osbornes through the marriage of Francis, 5th Duke of Leeds to the notorious Lady Amelia D’Arcy in 1773, who later began an affair with Captain Byron, father of the poet. The assumption that much furniture moved to Hornby with the Osbornes is substantiated by the presence of Thomas Osborne’s monogram ‘D.C.L.’ (representing his alternative titles of Earl of Danby, Marquess of Carmarthen and Duke of Leeds) on a day-bed and a sofa, sold from Hornby in 1920 (now in the collections at Temple Newsam House, Leeds).

Two cabinet-makers are known to have worked at Kiveton. Firstly, Thomas Young who was a joiner and carver who also worked at Chatsworth with Davis, Lobb and Watson. The second, Philip Guibert is referred to in one of the Duke of Leeds’ account books for 9 November 1703: ‘Pay’d Gilbert, ye joyner by My Lady Duches’s order’. Guibert was extensively patronised by William III and supplied furnishings for Windsor and Kensington Palace from 1697-8.

Suites of seat furnituire such as these were luxurious furnishings, often used in a state bedchamber, and were used to indicate wealth and status. The tall, shaped back and complex outline of this chair frame are close to designs published by the court designer Daniel Marot (about 1661-1752). The high arched backs were fashionable at the end of the 17th century, and used to display extremely expensive velvets and materials, often imported from Italy. The original multi-coloured Italian velvet upholstery has been replaced.
 

These wonderful chairs have also been extensively published:

Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714 From Charles II to Queen Anne, 2002, illustrated frontispiece
Percy Macquoid, The History of English Furniture – The Age of Walnut, 1905, p.114
Edward Joy, The Country Life Book of Chairs, 1967, illustrated on the front cover
Ian Wardropper and Lynn Springer Roberts, European Decorative Arts in the Art Institute of Chicago, 1991, p.44
Apollo Magazine, vol. LXXVIII, no. 22 (December 1963), illustrated,
Country Life, vol. XX, July 14 1906 p.54-64
Adam Bowett and Ian Fraser, ‘An Imposter Unmasked: the “Duke of Leeds” suite at Temple Newsam House’, Furniture History, vol. LI (2015), pp. 77-86. This chair illustrated as fig. 10., p. 85.

Related Literature:
Christopher Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, 1978, vol. II, pp.264-7, nos. 322-3
Geoffrey Beard and Christopher Gilbert (eds.), Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660 – 1840, 1986, p.1015)

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