An extremely unusual and oversize walnut armchair with concave-vase-shaped splat and broad sloping shoulders ornamented with carved and gilt acanthus and volute terminals. The central splat inlaid with floral marquetry and motto, “FOR OUR COUNTRY,” the side rails further inlaid with husk pendants. The arms terminate in finely carved lions’ masks, above compass seat supported by cabriole legs ending in pad feet.
Possibly by Francis Brodie of Edinburgh, c. 1745–60
Bought from a Scottish source by Aldric Young (Antiques), Edinburgh, 1974
Private American Collection
LITERATURE Christopher Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, Vol. I (1978), p. 76, no. 58; Vol. III (1998), p. 720 (ill.) Sebastian Pryke, ‘The extraordinary billhead of Francis Brodie’, Regional Furniture, Vol. 4 (1990), pp. 81–99 (pp. 87–98 and fig. 16) Height: 70 in (175 cm) Width: 33 in (84 cm) Depth: 30 in (76 cm) This remarkable armchair is likely to have been made for use in a dining club of members of the Anti-Gallican Society, whose motto, ‘FOR OUR COUNTRY’, is inlaid at the top of the splat.
The Anti-Gallican Society was founded in the resonant year of 1745, to promote British arts and manufactures as against those of France. The chair was sold in 1974 in Edinburgh, apparently with a Scottish history of ownership, which has given rise to the suggestion that it was produced in the workshop of the Edinburgh wright Francis Brodie. His billhead features an armchair of somewhat similar profile (though more domestic proportions). A closely related ceremonial armchair, retaining its original carved cresting, was formerly in the collection of Percival Griffiths and is now at Temple Newsam House, Leeds. The Temple Newsam chair is cut from slightly different templates (notably in the outline of the splat) and has different marquetry in the back, so it was not necessarily a companion chair to the present one. However, it was undoubtedly made in the same workshop; and it conceivably also has Anti-Gallican symbolism, in the large eagle that surmounts the cresting, for one of the Society’s armorial supporters was an eagle – though a double-headed one. The Temple Newsam chair is also made partly of elm, which would be consistent with a Scottish origin. How far the Anti-Gallican Society was active in Scotland in its early years is uncertain, but a likely promoter would have been Lord Blakeney, who vigorously defended Stirling Castle, of which he was Governor, under siege during the ’45 Rebellion. Another Scottish connection is attested by a silver-gilt badge of the Society in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is engraved on the back with the MacKay arms; its Rococo style suggests a mid-eighteenth-century date.