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Settee

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1722 - circa 1726

Materials

Walnut veneers on beech, parcel gilding, some with oak seat rails, webbing, linen canvas, wool and silk threads

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Montacute House, Somerset (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Montacute House, Somerset, South West, National Trust

NT 597537.11

Summary

A parcel-gilt walnut settee, English, circa 1722 - 1726, forming part of a larger set also including ten chairs [NT 597537.1 - .10] and a four-fold screen [NT 597537.12]. Having a rectangular back and broadening stuff-over seat covered in contemporary embroidery worked in gros- and petit-point wool and silk. The settee stitched with a figurative scene depicting The Discovery of Achilles. Raised on five angular cabriole legs with husks carved to the knee between leafy brackets. The edges of the legs and feet moulded and highlighted in gilt. -- Probably ordered by Sir John Chester, 4th Bt. (1666 - 1726) for Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire which he began building in 1719 and furnishing from 1722. Also possibly ordered by his younger son, also John (1693 - 1748), who married Frances Bagot in 1719. Recorded at Chicheley in an inventory taken on 10th June 1755 and listed 'In the Ladys Drawing Room' as '10 Chairs Stuft Backs & seats Coverd with needlework Brass naild & green Serge cases & the legs Walnuttree Gilt. A Large Settee Do & serge Case Do fringd all round...A 4 Leavd Walnuttree needlework Screen Guilt frame Serge Case & green Silk Back'. The embroidered covers contemporary and probably the originals. The worsted backs surviving to the chairs, but not to the settee or the screen. The chairs and settee retain their original webbing and base cloth. The needlework, which is considered to be either French or English, derives with only a single exception [NT 597537.4] from the writings of Ovid, and the majority from Metamorphoses. The figure compositions derive from engravings by Francois Chauveau and Jean Lepautre in de Benserade's Métamorphoses d'Ovide en rondeaux (1676). It has been noted that in the majority of scenes, women take the starring role. Stitched against a black ground with vases, flowers, ruptured fruit and seed-pods. The flowers including daisies, daffodils, carnations, pinks, tylips, ruptured pomegranates and peppers. The figurative scenes are set in strapwork cartouches. Each chair is covered in a single length of embroidery, and each leaf of the screen comprises a single canvas. The settee back and seat are covered in separate pieces. Worked in wool and silk on linen canvas, the borders are mostly in cross-stitch, the figurative panels in tent-stich and the noses and eyes are defined in back-stitch. The embroidery possibly French, the chairs, of beech veneered in walnut, are definitely English. They are related to a famous set supplied to Houghton Hall of circa 1720 - 25. There are interesting differences between the two sets which make these chairs less refined than those at Houghton. Both have beech frames but the Chicheley chairs also have oak seat rails; the Houghton chairs have drop-in seats, whilst the Chicheley Hall chair rails are strengthened by nailed - rather than tenoned - cross-braces. The Houghton legs are carved in the gesso; whilst those for Chicheley are carved in the wood. The Houghton chairs are attributed, although not firmly, to Thomas Roberts. Whilst payments made by Sir John Chester, 4th Bt., are recorded to various upholders, linen drapers and one chair-maker, none of them can be firmly identified as the maker or supplier of these chairs or their covers. Photographed in the Hall and Billiard Room (the 1755 Great Parlour) in Country Life in 1936.

Provenance

Probably commissioned by Sir John Chester, 4th Bt (1666 - 1726), for Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire. Recorded 'In the Ladys drawing room' there in an inventory taken 10th June 1755. Thence by descent to Major John Greville Bagot Chester, MC (1925 - 2011); on loan to Montacute; accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute, 2012.

References

Dodd, Dudley (2011), 'French and English: Embroidered Furniture at Montacute' in National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual (2011) Bowett 2009, Early Georgian Furniture 1715 - 1740 (2009), Illustrated and discussed pp. 173 - 4 and Plate 4:60

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