An Exceptional Gothic Revival Oak & Leather Armchair in the Manner of A. W. N. Pugin c.1860

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The ecclesiastical inspired armchair or desk chair having an arched back surmounted by a carved lion, with floral carved frame and elaborate carved back panel consisting of sinuous entwined berried leaves, leather covered back and arms, the arm supports carved with medieval female masks with plaited hair, on an elaborate carved X-shaped frame having further rosettes with conforming carved spiral twist stretcher, survives from early Victorian period England.

This wonderful chair has quite rightly been well loved and there are marks, scratches and abrasions commensurate with age and use. There is wear to the carved detail in areas throughout and some surface cracking to the leather with some areas of wear to the arm pads and the seat revealing a lighter underlying colour. There is a break through the frame to the upper part of the back and there is some evidence that there has been a previous repair towards the upper joint of one rear leg and to the lion cresting. There are approximately five other points to the lower legs where there have been clean breaks that have been glued neatly. There is some additional wear to the feet and one section of replacement to the lower terminal of one foot. We have given the piece a light clean and wax and made any looser joints more secure.

The chair as a whole does not claim to be perfect but it is certainly in good and sturdy overall condition and could be made ‘prefect’ if that was so desired. The oak has a beautiful patination and tactile feel especially to the female masks and to the lion.

The chair is formerly from the collection of Jools Holland OBE, the 51-year-old pianist, television presenter, architectural eccentric and pop music enthusiast is a known antiques collector.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1 March 1812 – 14 September 1852) was an English architect, designer, and theorist of design, now best remembered as the leading proponent in the Gothic revival style, particularly churches and the Palace of Westminster. He owned a large collection of original medieval carvings which were a source of inspiration for his work and many of these are mirrored in this piece of furniture.

Among the many influences from Pugin we find on this chair are the rosettes to the X-Frame, which are akin to those found on wooden ornaments at New Walsingham Church in Norfolk (*plate 19) and at Wells Church, Norfolk (*plate 23). The carved surmounted lion is similar to a church stall elbow from Beauchamp Chapel & St. Mary’s Church, Warwick (*plate 92) whilst the ornate panel to the reverse of the chair apes the shapes of oak panels on stalls in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey (*plate 95).

* All plates from ’Pugin’s Gothic Ornament, The Classical Sourcebook of Decorative Motifs’ by The Dover Pictorial Archive.

A triumph.

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