George Smith (active 1801-1828) illustrated a design for a very similar armchair in his pattern book, A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1808, plate 56, dated 1 December 1804. The Museum's armchair may have been part of a set, possibly made for the collector Philip John Miles, for whom the architect Thomas Hopper built Leigh Court, Somerset, in 1814. The set subsequently became part of the collection of his son, John William Miles, at Forde Abbey, Dorset, and was illustrated there in the Tapestry Room in an article, 'Forde Abbey - II', Country Life, 10 July 1909, pp.55-56. Four armchairs presumably from the Forde Abbey set are now in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. Another armchair of the same design was sold at Sothebys, London, 30th November 2001, lot 101.
This chair is based on designs published in George Smith's 'Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration' of 1808. Smith's designs blended Greek, Roman and Egyptian forms and motifs to produce a standardised version of the Regency Classical style. His book introduced this style to a far wider audience. [27/03/2003]
Armchairs of this nature were intended for the drawing room. In his Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1808) George Smith praised their 'great taste', 'elegance' and 'costly materials'.
This chair comes from a set of ten that were probably made for Leigh Court near Bristol, a house designed by Thomas Hopper (1776-1856) in the ancient Greek Ionic style.
Materials & Making
The frame of the armchair is made of painted, gilded and carved beech, and its seat of cane. The loose cushion is covered in a modern silk damask, the design based on fashionable textiles of about 1805.
Smith's Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1808) borrowed ideas from the illustrations of Household Furniture and Interior Decoration by Thomas Hope (1769-1831), published a year earlier. This thus helped to popularise Hope's designs among cabinet-makers and their clients.