A George III Period Painted Open Armchair; Attributed to Gillows c.1790-95

Origin: English
Period: George III
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1790-95
Width: 22”
Height: 37” or 17” at seat
Depth: 21” (all at extremities)

The hand painted beech elbow chair retaining much of its original painted decoration, with a pea-green ground and red and yellow line decoration, quadrant elbows, canted canopy top rail with drapery splat with a floral cabouchon, paterae to the tops of the front square tapering legs terminating in spade feet, with rear sabre legs, the seat re-caned, and the whole surviving from the last quarter of the eighteenth century, made almost certainly by Gillows of Lancaster.

The chair is in good ready to use country house condition. Some of the painted decoration has possibly been refreshed and there is some sporadic old worm. Elsewhere there is your typical historical flaking, nicks, rubbing and marks to the painted surfaces consistent with age and use. The seat has been re-caned at some recent stage with an old linen drop in cover of the same colour, and there are typical minor historical repairs to small segments of the seat rails consistent with age and use.

Gillows might not be as prestigious a name in English furniture as Chippendale, Hepplewhite or Sheraton, but the firm, based in Lancaster, outlasted all of them. The history of Gillows, from the early eighteenth century to the early twentieth, encapsulates the history of English furniture and its manufacture. Robert Gillow began making furniture around 1730, some 20 years before Thomas Chippendale, and developed first a national and then an international reputation as a supplier of quality furniture to the upper middle classes, the landed gentry, and the aristocracy. The company won commissions to furnish and decorate public buildings in Australia, South Africa, India, Russia, Germany, France and the U.S., and it also executed Pugin’s designs for London’s Palace of Westminster from 1840.

As per the book ‘Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840: by Susan E. Stuart’ a set of chairs very similar to this one were “made for Walter H. Fawkes of Farnely Hall, North Yorkshire in 1792”. The ‘drapery splat’ we see in the chair is a pattern that “was drawn in the estimate sketch book in February 1792:. The plates in the book also mention the chairs ‘canted’ tops;  “that is the concave corners at each side of the top rail” as this example shows and also that the chairs have ‘arms which are jointed almost into the top of the stiles near the top rail, which was very characteristic of the 1790s”. The painter of this chair could possibly have been Thomas Wilkes, a painter from London who would have ‘japanned the chairs for 6s. each”.

Very hard to find now and in high demand; a beautiful Georgian period piece of painted furniture.