Pair of Late Regency Chinoiserie Library Chairs | Rose Uniacke

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Pair of Late Regency Chinoiserie Library Chairs


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About this piece

The blue painted frame with raised chinosiere lacquerwork and gilt decoration frame with pierced spoonback decorated above a horsehair covered seat, on sabre legs, square brass caps and castors

English, circa 1820

Seat Height: 39cm

Like the Royal Pavilion's extravagant Chinoiserie schemes, the Greek Revival Librarychairs are decorated in a post-Rococo manifestation of the Chinoiserie fashion and represent the late, more vibrant flowering of the style seen in early 19th Century Britain. This was fertile ground indeed, with Britain experiencing a surge of confidence and prosperity from Napoleon's defeat in 1815. Thus followed a cluster of Chinoiserie interiors in the circle of the Prince Regent (soon to become George IV), who had himself become a leading proponent of the style.

Of particular importance with regard to visual reference had been a visit by artist William Alexander to China as part of a diplomatic mission, where he produced over 2000 drawings, giving a rare and authentic glimpse of a faraway country. Published in 1805, the illustrations would prove hugely popular, with figures such as Frederick Crace (one of the interior decorators of the Royal pavilion) copying directly (fig 1) and in turn such royal patronage inevitably ensured the style became the height of fashion, with the foreign exoticism graphically demonstrating Britain's mastery of the globe.

The playfulness of the chairs' palette and the whimsical decoration capture the growing decadence of the period; the blue ground embellished with landscapes, staffage figures and gilded geometric pattern, the raised lacquerwork in imitation of Japanese Takamakie. The frame, with typical late Regency eclecticism, offers a neo-classical vision filled with latent martial undertones. The simplicity of the sabre legs and spoonback shape is typical of the archaeological revivalist style of the Regency period, where the forms of Antiquity were mined for inspiration, often from source. This created a bolder, more eclectic style, as opposed to the more restrained neo-classicism of the Georgian past.

Leaders of Regency taste, such as Thomas Hope, whose designs were widely copied, pushed this vision which blended ancient with modern, an objective perfectly captured in the dynamic profile of the spoonback frame, the composition reminiscent of the styl- ised profile of the facial openings of the Corinthian Battle Helmet.

By the first decade of the 19th century elements such as the sabre leg, inspired directly by the Ancient Greek Klismos chair, had been completely absorbed into English Regency design and would have appeared dated by the late 1830s. Likewise, both the decadent Chinoiserie style and the Royal Pavilion were not to the incoming Queen Victoria's tastes.


H 86cm x W 54cm x D 50cm
H 34" x W 21½" x D 19¾"

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