11124 A RARE PAIR OF WHITE PAINTED AND PARCEL GILT SALON CHAIRS IN THE FRENCH TASTE, BY I FIFE English. 1830. Measurements: Height: 33 1/2″ (85cm)Width: 15 3/4″ (40cm) Depth: 15 3/4″ (45cm).
Of painted and parcel gilt wood. Each with a curved upholstered backrest with channel molded frame continuing into carved rocaille decoration flanking the upholsered seat. The whole raised on four outswept cabriole legs, each leg surmounted by carved and gilt anthemion, shell and scroll elements and terminating in a carved palemtte foot raised on casters. Minor restoration.
The en suite daybed inscribed to the seat rail:
I Fife (?) April 3 1830
Payne, Christopher. Paris Furniture: The Luxury Market of the 19th Century. Saint-Remy-en-l’Eau: Editions d’art Monelle Hayot, 2018.
The present chairs are remarkable examples of documentary pieces that express a fascinating moment in early nineteenth century English aristocratic taste known as the Rococo Revival. The years circa 1830 mark the very beginning of this taste, and the present pieces are unusual examples where neoclassical references from the preceding decades can be found coexisting with rococo ornament. Classicism is represented in the form of lotus flower ornament to the knee of the legs, lotus gilt-brass castors and anthemion cresting, while the rococo ornament is expressed in the handrests and cabriole legs. Also remarkable is the spoonback form, much more associated with salon chairs circa the 1850s.
The most notable schemes with interiors and furniture in an overt Frenchified taste occur at Lancaster House (originally Stafford House) in St. James, London. Like the present chairs, white and gilt is the preferred color palette for this taste. It was used in large part in the State Apartments in rooms like the Picture Gallery (figure 1), where the wall decoration designed by Benjamin Wyatt and the gold and white Louis XIV style furnishings provided by George Morant & Son.
Another example of white and gilt chairs within a Frenchified interior of 1833 is the Court Drawing Room of the Goldsmith’s Hall (figure 2).
It is extremely rare to find chairs inscribed with the maker’s name and date. Although no record at present exists of “Fife,” the chairs are of very high quality and it seems certain that more information will come to light on this inventive maker.