This impressive pair of armchairs relates to a suite of seat furniture of circa 1770-1775 attributed to furniture-maker John Linnell (H. Hayward and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, London, 1980, p.44, figs.84-85), one armchair of which is now preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (fig.1). The attribution is further strengthened by similarities to features found in a Linnell drawing of circa 1768-1770 (op cit. p.43, fig.83).
The distinctive use of swags to the tops of the legs were also utilized by Linnell in ormolu, notably on a set of eight chairs made for Robert Child at Osterley Park (op cit. pp.38, fig. 71), games tables supplied to both the Duke of Northumberland for Alnwick Castle and Viscount Scarsdale for Kedleston Hall (op cit. pp. 141-143, figs. 279-281). Similarly, the fluting of the seat-rails and bell-flower carving is mirrored in the marquetry designs found on Linnell’s case furniture of this period.
ROBERT ADAM & JOHN LINNELL
According to Helena Hayward in her book William & John Linnell, no evidence has come to light to determine the personal relationship between Robert Adam & John Linnell but they worked for the same client so frequently that at the very least they must have had mutual respect. Not only was the designing of furniture for a client shared between them but on occasion, they would both provide designs for the same piece from which the client could decide. On other occasions, designs provided by Adam were interpreted and even amended by Linnell rather than simply reproducing. This certainly implies that they had a very good relationship.
Helena Hayward & Pat Kirkham William & John Linnell, Eighteenth Century London Furniture Makers.
The Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 by White, Allom & Co.
The 1908 Franco-British Exhibition celebrated the entente cordiale between the two countries that had been signed in 1904. It was a public fair on a 140-acre site in West London, which was visited by about nine million people. The Central Line was specially extended for the exhibition, and two new stations created to provide access. It amounted to a vast fantasy land of white plaster palaces, waterways and trade pavilions. The whole effect was so striking that visitors nicknamed the landscape the Great White City. The buildings are no more, but the name has stuck.
It was the first international exhibition co-organised and sponsored by two countries and was a celebration of British and French industry, business, culture, and empire. The bi-national character of the enterprise was a novelty and intended to “promote the entente cordiale between France and Britain.