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Thomas Chippendale (1718-79)

Sofa c.1773

Gilded beechwood, silk | 104.5 x 213.4 x 89.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 100204

Morning Room, Clarence House

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  • These sofas form part of a suite with eight open armchairs (later enlarged by the addition of thirteen single chairs in two sizes and a pair of bergères), constitute the only physical evidence of a royal commission to the most celebrated cabinet-maker of the Georgian period. Chippendale was never attached to the Great Wardrobe and though he boasted in 1768 to one of his most important clients, Sir Rowland Winn of Nostell Priory, that he had 'a great quantity of unexpected business . . . mostly for the Royal Family', the evidence for this was thought to be confined to the fact that some copies of the third edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director (1762) bore a dedication to Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of George III.

    While no evidence of a Chippendale commission has come to light in George III's or Queen Charlotte's accounts, payments to Chippendale totalling £134 15s 6d have been discovered in the only surviving portion of the Duke of Gloucester's bank account, covering the years 1764-6. These payment are too early to relate to this suite which must date to the early 1770s. Assuming the suite was commissioned by the Duke, it was presumably intended for his London residence (Gloucester House, Park Lane) or for one of his country seats in the Windsor area - St Leonard's Hill (purchased by his wife in the year of their marriage, 1766), Cranbourne Lodge (the Duke's seat as Keeper of Cranbourne Chase, from 1767), or Bagshot Park, Surrey, which the Duke later gave to his son. The fact that the whole suite bears George IV's inventory brand, as used at Windsor, means that if the provenance is correct, it must have been given away by the Gloucesters' children William Frederick or Sophia Matilda, to whom the Duke on his death in 1805 had bequeathed his property 'share and share alike'.

    Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004
    Provenance

    ? Made for William Henry, Duke of Gloucester

  • Medium and techniques

    Gilded beechwood, silk

    Measurements

    104.5 x 213.4 x 89.0 cm (whole object)