This set of ten chairs, together with six similar, though not identical ones (No. 293), were purchased by my parents from Arthur Vernay for their dining room at 740 Park Avenue. When the furnishings from 740 Park Avenue were to be distributed to my siblings and me in 1971 after my stepmother, Martha, died, we asked Stephen Jussel to look at the items in the apartment and give us his judgment of which ones were especially good. He pointed out in particular this set of dining-room chairs, which he thought were quite outstanding. Fortunately for us, we were able to acquire them in the draw. They have served us very well in our dining room at 65th Street ever since.
These chairs were likely inspired by the designs of Thomas Chippendale, the most influential cabinet-maker of the 18th century. The third edition of Chippendale’s pattern book for furniture design, The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director, 1762, includes illustrations for chair backs with related pierced gothic arches (plate XVII), and similar blind fret-carved legs (plate XXVII).
Additional patterns for chairs uniting classical and gothic elements were published by Robert Manwaring in The Cabinet and Chair-maker’s Real Friend and Companion, 1765, and The Chair-Maker’s Guide, 1766 as well as in his contribution to A Society of Upholsterers, Genteel Household Furniture in the Present Taste, circa 1765 (E. White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Design, Woodbridge, 1990, pp. 69, 72-74, and 77-81). Other features, such as the use of bold nailing patterns, are featured in Thomas Malton’s Compleat Treatise on Perspective, 1775 (E. White, op. cit., p. 85).
A set of six dining chairs with similar pierced backs, probably from the collection of the Meade Waldo family of Hever Castle, Kent, sold Christie’s, New York, 7-8 February 2017, lot 10.