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Anglo-Chinese Export Armchair in Padouk Wood, 18th Century – Possibly Made in Canton or Macao

Posted: September 18th, 2022 | No Comments »

I saw this chair come up at auction recently and thought it interesting as I had never seen such Asian made European-style chairs before. My own knowledge is scant so i’ll just reprint the auction catalogue text below….

A RARE ANGLO-CHINESE EXPORT PADOUK ARMCHAIR 18th Century, of Irish style, with scrolled crest rail, the pierced and interlaced splat carved with bird’s heads, drop-in seat, on leaf and rosette carved cabriole front legs with claw and ball feet, 99cm high x 71cm wide x 52cm deep. Note: an identical pair of chairs sold at Woolley & Wallis, 30th June 2022, lot 526, raising the intriguing possibility of a larger set split and scattered across Southern England, with perhaps further examples yet to be found. As mentioned in the Woolley’s catalogue, such chairs were commissioned by European clients and made by cabinet makers in Canton or Macau – part of a long tradition of decorative art and furnishing items made in China to European designs but constructed in a Chinese manner. The high quality of this chair would indicate a wealthy client, perhaps an East India Company official. The splat design echoes Irish examples noted in The Knight of Glin and James Peill, Irish Furniture, p.213, figs. 38 & 39, whilst for further information on Chinese cabinet making see Carl L. Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade, pp.220-234. This particular chair, unlike the pair recently sold, bears two labels worded in ink. The earlier label is worded – ‘This chair came from the Palace of the Prince of Arcot, Madras, India, During the Napoleonic Wars between France and Britain. Tippoo Sultan was defeated in Mysore in 1799 and as a result the Prince of Arcot was deposed….it was reconditioned in 1926, the seating worked by Miss L. Edwards’. The other label reads – ‘We bought this chair in a House Auction in Highcliff and the following information was pinned underneath by the owner at that time…’ Sadly, we have no direct provenance to support these labels (the chair being sold by a private individual who acquired it locally in recent years), but the overall dating and exotic story are feasible – particularly as the Chepauk Palace (official residence of the Nawab of Arcot from 1768-1855) was constructed by Paul Benfield (1742-1810) an English East India Company official, who was a close associate of Irish born British statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

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