9987 – A PAIR OF CHINESE EXPORT SIDE CHAIRS MADE IN THE ENGLISH ‘QUEEN ANNE’ TASTE

9987 A PAIR OF CHINESE EXPORT SIDECHAIRS MADE IN THE ENGLISH ‘QUEEN ANNE’ TASTE RETAINING THEIR ORIGINAL PAINTED AND GILDED LEATHER SEATS Chinese.  Circa 1720. Measurements: Height: 40 1/3″ (102.5 cm) Width: 22 1/2″ (57 cm) Depth: 19 1/3″ (49 cm).



Research

Of Chinese pine, black lacquer and raised and flat gilt decoration.  Splat formed of a central baluster-shaped section with flanking curved stiles with rounded shoulders and a yoke shaped crest rail.  Removable horseshoe-shaped seat with its original leather upholstery, s-curved cabriole legs with shell-carved knee decoration terminating in stylized tassels, and unusual claw and ball feet on front legs.  Back legs slightly raked with canted corners and  ‘hoof’ shaped feet.  Entirely japanned in black and gold, floral decoration on stiles and seat rails with more complex arrangements reserved for the upper splat and center of seat rail.  The center of the splat is decorated with a bucolic scene of two women, one with an infant on her back.  Fine floral decoration with birds and butterflies also on the leather seats.  

Marks:

On the underside of one is a single Chinese character; on the other  chair, three Chinese characters.

Provenance:
Collection of Gordon and Elizabeth Morrill, Manchester, MA.
Boston Museum of Fine Art.

In the later decades of the seventeenth century during the reign of Charles II, the English East India Company sent examples of European furniture to China to be used as models for native craftsmen. In the 1670s these sample pieces were followed by cabinet-makers, sent to directly instruct Chinese craftsmen on how to make furniture for sale on the English and European markets. This initiative was a marked success, so much so that in 1700 the manufacturers in England petitioned the king for relief from the competition mounted by their oriental counterparts.  This appeal went unheeded and the importation of Chinese furniture based on English models continued to flourish, reaching a climax in the reigns of Queen Anne and George I, around the time the present pieces were made. Although such chairs are typically referred to as being in the ‘Queen Anne Taste,’ they often date from the decades after the queen’s reign, which ended in 1714.

This pair perfectly exemplifies why such pieces were so desirable; the English design and Chinese craftsmanship combine to create a chair that is both practical and decorative, ideal for use both in a Dining Room or a Parlor.

The present pair of chairs once formed part of a set of four such chairs within the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The other two, a bequest of Charles Hitchcock Tyler to the museum in 1932, remain in the museum’s collection (figure 1). Their charming decoration extends to their seat cushions, which are still upholstered in their original leather, a remarkable and unusual survival.

The present chairs had been a gift of Elizabeth and Gordon Morrill of Manchester, MA to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1995 (Acquisition No. 1995.711-712). The Morrills acquired the chairs on June 10, 1947 from a dealer on the Via Tornabuoni, Florence.

Morrill, more commonly known as F. Gordon Morrill, and his wife were important collectors of 14th and 15th century Chinese blue and white porcelain. They lived primarily in Florence, but maintained residences in Massachusetts and Florida. They set up the Gordon and Elizabeth Morrill Music Library at Villa I Tatti, now the Harvard University Center of Italian Renaissance Studies, and sold a group of their ceramics collection to benefit the university. The Morrills also gave pieces of Chinese Porcelain to the Fogg Museum at Harvard, as well as the Boston MFA.

On 16th September 2003, the remains of Morrill’s collection was sold at Doyle New York, and included a spectacular Yuan blue and white flask that was purchased by Sir Joseph Hotung for $5.8 million. Morrill kept extensive records of his acquisitions, sales, and donations, many of which had impressive provenances, including C.H. Michael, Garner, Polys Modinos, Hobart, Lowbeer, Henry Knight, the Newton Collection (Peking), Sir Robert Hart, the Dowager Empress Cixi and numerous dealers.


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