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Sofa

attributed to Thomas Chippendale (Otley 1718 - London 1779)

Category

Furniture

Date

1771 - 1772

Materials

Limewood, beech, gesso, gold leaf, silk damask

Measurements

108 x 260 x 108 cm

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Saltram, Devon (Accredited Museum)

NT 871318.1.2

Summary

A sofa, one of a pair of sofas, part of a set of twenty pieces of giltwood seat furniture comprising eighteen open armchairs (NT 871318.2.1 - 18) and two sofas (NT 871318.1.1 & 871318.1.2), English, probably after a design by Robert Adam (1728 - 1792) and attributed to Thomas Chippendale (1718 - 1779), and almost certainly made by him for the Saloon at Saltram in 1771/2. Having a serpentine entrelac-carved toprail with a cresting to the dipped centre of an anthemion between foliated scrolls. The arms with acanthus-carved ends partially padded and upholstered and on moulded arm supports. The seat slightly serpentine and with a fluted seat rail, on eight turned, and fluted tapering legs on ovoid feet. Covered in pale blue silk damask replacing the original covers.

Full description

This set of seat furniture is generally attributed to Thomas Chippendale, owing to similarities with two documented sets at Harewood House, Yorkshire. Five payments to Chippendale are recorded in Lord Boringdon’s cash account book between 1771 and 1772, but the furniture supplied is not itemised. It has been argued that the total sum of £225 ‘may not reflect the true scale of the commission’ (Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London 1972, vol. I, p. 257). It may have been on his succession in 1768 that John Parker (later 1st Baron Boringdon) approached the famous neo-classical architect Robert Adam to design a ‘great room’ (or Saloon) at Saltram. Two of Adam’s drawings for the Saloon survive at Saltram (NT 871171 & 871172) and a further set is at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. Adam provided alternative designs for the ceiling, one of which is almost identical to the ceiling as carried out. The original blue damask for the walls was purchased in 1770 for £300. By 1811 it had faded, according to the Rev. Thomas Talbot, to a ‘riche dove’ colour. Later in the nineteenth century striped silk was put up and this was replaced again in 1950. To achieve an effect of total unity in the Saloon, Adam designed all fixtures and fittings – even the fine gilded door handles are based on a design illustrated in the second volume of Adam’s ‘Works in Architecture’. The chairs, tables and torchères would have been arranged around the walls giving prominence to the Axminster carpet (NT 872446), which Adam designed to echo the pattern of the ceiling, but using stronger colours to complement the pictures. (Wolf Burchard, 2016)

Provenance

Possibly supplied by Thomas Chippendale (1718 - 1779) to John Parker (d. 1788), later 1st Baron Boringdon(1784) in 1771. Accepted in part payment of death duties by HM Treasury from the executors of Edmund Robert Parker, 4th Earl of Morley (1877 - 1951) and transferred on loan to the National Trust in 1957 and gifted outright on 1984.

Makers and roles

attributed to Thomas Chippendale (Otley 1718 - London 1779) , cabinet maker probably Robert Adam (Kirkcaldy 1728 - London 1792), designer (?)

References

Gilbert, 1978: Christopher Gilbert. The life and work of Thomas Chippendale. London: Studio Vista: Christie’s, 1978., I, p. 257

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