11406 A PAIR OF REGENCY OAK HALL CHAIRS AFTER A DESIGN BY PETER AND MICHAEL ANGELO NICHOLSON, CARVED WITH THE CREST OF THE WATTS FAMILY, WILTSHIRE, SOMERSET AND DEVON English. Circa 1826. Measurements: Height: 35 1/2″ (90 cm) Width: 21″ (53 cm) Depth: 18 1/2″ (47 cm).
Of solid oak. Each chair with a carved seat back centered by the arms of the Watts family. The seat above a plain frieze with five carved roundels to the front, from which issue two square tapering legs to the front and two saber legs to the rear.
Peter Nicholson (1765-1844) (figure 1) was a Scottish architect, mathematician and engineer, who moved to London in 1789. He may well be the only architect to have completed a full apprenticeship and worked for several years as a cabinet maker, as well as being a highly accomplished mathematician, publishing numerous books on geometry, algebra and fractions.
Nicholson also published The Practical Cabinet Maker in 1826 together with his eldest son, Michael Angelo (c. 1796-1844), which begins with a substantial section of ‘Treatises on Geometry and Perspective.” The Nicholsons’ taste took its inspiration from Grecian forms. In the introduction they write: “It was a knowledge of these [scientific] principles that inspired the genius of the illustrious artists of Greece and enabled them to construct those sublime works, which remain, even to this day, the proud and lofty monuments of unrivaled excellence and universal admiration. The labors of remote antiquity would never have been held in such profound veneration, had not the scientific principles, which guided the hand of the artist, been clearly visible in those splendid examples that have been handed down to posterity….. A careful and attentive study of the works of the ancients is most eminently useful to such as are desirous of improvement in the art of decoration.”1
The present chairs are based on the design for a hall chair in Plate 48 of The Practical Cabinet Maker, 1826. (figure 2).
Largely self-taught, Nicholson worked as an architect variously in London, northern England, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The influence of his many books and papers on classical architecture exerted a profound influence on the development of the neoclassical style in Scotland, and in Glasgow in particular. It is interesting to note that Peter Nicholson was grandfather-in-law of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, on whom his ideas and prolific publications undoubtedly had a strong guiding influence.
Settling in Glasgow around 1800, Nicholson “established himself as the most important post-Adam classisict in the city,” designing Carlton Place (1802-18), Yorkhill House, Overtoun, (1806), dem., and the Doric, Hamilton Building, Old College (1811)2 and two footbridges across the Clyde to Carlton Place (1803-5).
The backs of the present chairs are carved with the arms of the Watts family of Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon, featuring a greyhound with an arrow in its paw (figure 3).
- Nicholson, Peter, and Michael Angelo Nicholson. The Practical Cabinet-Maker. [With Plates.]. 1826. Page VI.
- “Peter Nicholson (1765-1844).” Glasgow- City of Sculpture, www.glasgowsculpture.com/pg_biography.php?sub=nicholson_p.