Regency Painted & Parcel Gilt Open Armchair
after a design by George Smith (c.1786–1826). The shaped scrolling top-rail above a caned panelled splat and turned leaf carved bar, above downswept rectangular arms with winged leopard’s head monopodia supports, the caned seat with velvet covered pad, on downswept front legs with hairy paw feet.
This chair belongs to a group of chairs which are ostensibly by the same workshop though differ slightly in execution of decoration, specifically that of the cresting rail. Two other chairs from the same group (here illustrated) were sold at Christies London The English Collector 17th November 2016 lot 108 (£25,000) and Bonham’s London Fine English Furniture 3rd March 2010 lot 134 (£10,560)
This chair possibly belonged to the collection assembled around 1930 at the Crawford Street home of the fashionable architect and furniture designer Harry Stuart Goodhart Rendel (d.1959) part of the collection is illustrated in situ by C. Hussey, ‘Four Regency Homes’, Country Life, 1931, p. 454, fig. 10). Goodhart Rendel was one of a distinguished group of collectors that also included the diplomat and architect Lord Gerald Wellesley, later 7th Duke of Wellington, Edward Knoblock and Sir Albert Richardson, responsible for a revival in popularity of the Regency during the inter-war years.
Ralph Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, rev. ed. Vol. I, London, 1954, p.312, fig. 282
Margaret Jourdain, Regency Furniture 1795-1830, London, 1965, p.50, fig. 82
This ‘Apollo’ library-chair is conceived in the richly sculpted antique fashion promoted by George IV, as Prince of Wales, and by the connoisseur Thomas Hope (d.1831) through their patronage of the Rome-trained architect Charles Heathcote Tatham (d.1842). Its golden monopodia of winged-lion griffin derive from a marble antiquity acquired in the 1790s by Tatham (see C.H. Tatham, Etchings Representing the Best Examples of Ancient Ornamental Architecture, London, 1799). On this Grecian seat, such ornaments serve to recall the triumphal Mt. Parnassus chariot adopted by Apollo as poetry deity whose sacred sunflower enriches its scrolled tablet back, while its lyre form corresponds to the ‘Apollo’s Chair’ pattern popularised by Thomas Sheraton’s Encyclopaedia, 1804-7 (pl. 10). Prince George’s ‘Upholder Extraordinary’ George Smith introduced the ‘Tatham griffin’ pattern in a ‘Library Chair’ pattern that he engraved in 1805 for A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, London, 1808 (pl. 46).
George Smith (c.1786–1826) London; cabinet maker and upholder.
He is described on the title page of his ambitious and influential pattern book A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1808, as ‘upholder extraordinary to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’. The 158 aquatint engravings bear dates from 1804 to 1807 and are important as being the first collection of designs for ordinary furniture in a fully developed Regency style. Advertisements for the book in the Liverpool Chronicle, 20 February 1805 and 25 November 1807 disclose that it was issued in three parts over three years, each priced £1 11s 6d plain or £2 12s 6d ‘elegantly coloured’. Smith contributed designs for furniture to Ackermann’s periodical Repository of Arts in January and March 1809 and his A Collection of Ornamental Designs after the Antique appeared in 1812.
Directories reveal that Smith traded as an ‘upholsterer and cabinetmaker’ at 69 Dean St, Soho 1795–97 and as ‘upholder etc’ at 15 Princes St, Cavendish Sq. 1806–11; his trade card issued from this address [Banks Coll., BM; John Johnson Coll., Bodleian Library, Oxford] features the Royal Arms and states he was ‘Upholder and cabinet maker to HRH The Prince of Wales, draughtsman in Architecture, Perspective and Ornaments.’ It is difficult to estimate his status as a furniture maker owing to a dearth of evidence. In the introduction to his final work The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide, 1826, he claimed ‘experience of forty years devoted to the study of cabinet making, upholstery and drawing, both in theory and practical application’, stating that he had been employed ‘by some of the most exalted characters in the country to manufacture many of the Designs.’ In this publication he paid tribute to, and his designs show the influence of, the work of Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825) who had accompanied Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. Denon had published Voyage dans las Basse at Le Haute Égypte in 1802 and contributed plates to the Description de l’Egpte published between 1809 and 1824. A portrait signed T. (J?) Bradley shows Smith seated with his spaniel, the curtains and furniture reproduced details of those illustrated in The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide (illus. Bedford, Regional Furniture (2001), fig.1). His career was not without setbacks since two bankruptcies were reported in 1790. [Bailey’s list of bankrupts and Liverpool Advertiser, 15 July 1793] Some furniture supplied by George Smith of London to Mount Stewart, Co. Down [C. Life, 13 March 1980, p. 757] might be from his workshop. In 1826 he still described himself as ‘Upholsterer and Furniture Draughtsman to His Majesty’ although he was then ‘Principal of the Drawing Academy’ at 41 Brewer St. He was possibly the father of George Smith jnr, a minor topographical artist. [G. Smith, Collection of Designs for Household Furniture, reprint, introduction by C. V. Hershey, 1970] C.G.G