A pair of Gainsborough armchairs with high backs and straight sweeping arms with turned tapering legs ending in ball and claw feet; the legs are joined by turned and bracketed stretchers.
Almost certainly supplied to Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown (d. 1783) for Russborough, Co. Wicklow, in the 1750's possibly for the saloon as part of an extensive suite comprising at least fourteen armchairs two sofas and a daybed.
Russborough House in Blessingdon, Ireland, was built between 1741 and 1750 by the successful German architect Richard Castle (Cassells) for Joseph Leeson, first Earl of Milltown (1701-1783). The house, built in the Palladian style, is famous for its fine stucco ceilings by the Lafranchini Brothers, ornate mantlepieces, inlaid floors and an impressive central staircase made from Santo Domingo mahogany. The spectacular natural surroundings are echoed by the extravagant design of its garden terraces, from which the magnificent views of the Blessington Lakes and the Wicklow mountains beyond can be fully appreciated.
Joseph Leeson was an enthusiastic collector, furnishing Russborough House with an impressive array of fine furniture, tapestries, carpets, porcelain, silver and bronzes, mostly acquired during his visits to Rome. The decorative program of the house combines a formal disposition of space with an unrestricted ornamental expression, a traditional feature in Irish architecture of the period. The classical austerity of the exterior of the house belies the luxurious extravagance of its interiors, majestically disposed and decorated with a combination of elaborate plasterwork and rich furnishings.
In its heyday, during the mid-18th century, Russborough was one of the very finest houses in Ireland. The Countess of Kildare noted, in 1759, that “the house is really fine and the furniture magnificent, but it is a frightful place.” This last remark was a social comment, because the first Earl, at the time, scandalized Irish society by entertaining a single woman with her two daughters at the house.
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