An Imposing Set Of Four Giltwood and Gilt-Bronze Mounted Armchairs Signed H. Jacob

March 22 2011, 6:05pm

These imposing chairs bear the signature of Henri Jacob (1753-1824), first cousin of the celebrated menuisier, George Jacob. Henri was reçu maître in 1779 and received his most notable commission in 1782 for Pavlovsk Palace near St. Petersburg from the Comte and Comtesse du Nord, the assumed names of the future Emperor Paul I of Russia and his wife Maria Fedorovna. In 1785 he was again called upon by the Russian court to deliver mahogany chairs, creating innovative designs in wood like those of his cousin George Jacob.

There exists in the British Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace a further set of very closely-related chairs, which have have the same striking scrolling arms above legs carved with the head of a horned lion and terminating in lion’s-paw feet (figure 1).   Figure 1 The Royal Collection chairs had previously been attributed to Morel and Seddon. However, the recently discovered Jacob signature on the present chairs would seem to confirm that both groups are an interesting example of French manufactured items, strongly influenced by English design (and there are other examples where the reverse is true).

Indeed a strong English precedent exists for the design for the stylized leonine head of the monopodiae to the chairs. Plate Plate XXIV, No. 6 in Thomas Hope’s  Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807) illustrates a pylonic pedestal whose carved lion supports display very similar angularly conceived “manes” from which also issue distinctive knurled horns (figure 2). Figure 2 Household Furniture recorded the interior of Hope’s house in Duchess Street, London, where the taste of the owner, derived from a close study of the ancient world, found unhindered expression. The book’s representation of Hope’s taste proved to be one of the most significant influences on English furniture design in the early years of the nineteenth century.