Each with oval husk and guilloche-carved padded back above padded leaf-carved arms with scrolled terminals and a serpentine seat, the rails centred by fluted tablets flanked by roundels on tapering turned and fluted legs with stiff-leaf ball toupie feet. Re-gilt.
Attributed to François Hervé and supplied by Henry Holland and Dominique Daguerre, circa 1791.
Supplied to George John, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834) either for Spencer House, London or Althorp, Northamptonshire, where they are recorded by 1814.
Thence by descent to John Poyntz, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910) at Althorp where they are recorded in the Sir Joshua Room and Red Drawing Room in 1902.
Thence by descent to Albert Edward John, 7th Earl Spencer (1892-1975) in Spencer House, where some are recorded in the Rubens Room and Ante Room in 1926, before being returned to Althorp circa 1926 and thence by descent.
Schedule of Furniture at Althorp 1814-1819, 'No. 68 - Drawing Room - 14 Circular Elbow Chairs Striped Covers'
H. Avray Tipping, 'Althorp, II', Country Life, 18 June 1921, pp. 765, 767, and 768, figs. 2, 4, 5 and 7, photographed in the Sir Joshua Reynolds Room and in the Red Drawing Room
Albert Edward John, 7th Earl Spencer (1892-1972), Althorp, Furniture, Vol. I, circa 1937 and later
N. Cooper, The Opulent Eye, Late Victorian and Edwardian Taste in Interior Design, London, 1976, p. 111, pl. 59, the suite photographed in 1892 in The Drawing Room, Althorp
J. Friedman, Spencer House, Chronicle of a great London mansion, London, 1993, p. 138, ill. 112, two armchairs in 1926 in the Music Room, and p. 272, ill. 240, three armchairs in 1926 in Lady Spencer's Dressing Room
S. Weber Soros (ed.), James "Athenian" Stuart: The Rediscovery of Antiquity, New Haven and London, 2006, p. 439, fig. 10-40
These golden French 'cabriolet' chairs, with their distinctive step-down seat-rail, can confidently be attributed to François Hervé (d.1796). They originally formed part of an extensive suite of at least 3 bergères, a sofa, 14 armchairs and 17 side chairs supplied to Althorp around 1791, where the rest of the suite remains.
François Hervé was a French furniture maker, employed initially by the 5th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in the 1770’s at Chatsworth, Derbyshire. Both the Duke and Duchess were Francophile’s and appreciated good quality furniture and neo-classical styles. It was the Devonshires who first employed the group of Anglo-French craftsmen such as Nelson and Hervé who later became prominent under Henry Holland, an architect to the English nobility. Interestingly, a directly related suite to these was commissioned in 1782 by George John, 2nd Earl Spencer's sister Georgiana and her husband William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (d. 1811) for Chatsworth, Derbyshire (I. Hall, 'A neoclassical episode at Chatsworth', The Burlington Magazine, vol. 122, June 1980, pp. 400-414). These are likely to have been designed by the Prince of Wales's Panton Street marchand-mercier William (or Guillaume) Gaubert, who advertised himself as 'Maker of Ornamental furniture' and preceded Dominique Daguerre as 'Clerk of Works' in the decoration of Carlton House. Hervé, no doubt, was amongst those to whom Gaubert referred, when he wrote in 1786 of others having, 'workd after my drawings'. These chairs would also fit Horace Walpole's description of his work for the Prince in 1785, as being 'delicate and new' and 'rather classic than French' (D. Stroud, Henry Holland: His Life and Architecture, London, 1966, pp. 64 and 73).
Henry Holland trained under Capability Brown and later married his daughter. Sir John Soane became one of his students. Holland was probably best remembered for the celebrated remodelling of Carlton House, London, in 1783, which exemplified his dignified neoclassicism, and contrasted with the more lavish style of his great contemporary Robert Adam.
Hervé also designed furniture for Carlton House. He was willing to supply chairs with backs wholly in the Louis XV manner as part of a major commission and his furniture is more easily identifiable than some chair makers. Hervé described himself as a “cabriolet chairframe maker”. His style was closer to that of the Paris styles than those of his English rivals, although Hervé sometimes adopted the English habit of splaying the back legs of chairs. He also supplied chairs with caned backs and seats, a fashion that English chair makers generally ignored. Carving was generally kept to a minimum by Hervé; he liked to step down his seat rails at the centre and at the junction with the legs. Paterae at the junction of the seat rail and the leg are a characteristically French ornament, as is fluting and counter fluting. Though some of Hervé's seat furniture is clearly transitional in style, having a mixture of rococo and neoclassical motifs, there are other suites that are neoclassical throughout.
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