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The English Collector: Four chairs from the historic Stansted Park Suite to be offered at Christie's
Chair from the historic Stansted Park suite. Estimate: £30,000 – 50,000 per pair. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.
LONDON.- Christie’s announced that four chairs from the historic Stansted Park suite of giltwood furniture will be offered in the sale of The English Collector – 500 Years: Decorative Arts Europe on 23 May 2013 (estimate: £30,000 – 50,000 per pair). This elegant suite, which is one of the most celebrated in the history of English furniture, was almost certainly commissioned by the 2nd Earl of Halifax for his stately mansion at Stansted Park in Sussex circa 1765-70. It remained there until a fire consumed the building in 1900. It was sold at Christie’s in 1911 where it began a momentous journey with pieces dispersing to: two of America's most celebrated 'Palaces' of the Gilded Age, The Huntington Library, The Victoria & Albert Museum and even gracing the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.

In the 1911 sale eleven chairs and two settees were acquired by Joseph Duveen’s great client, the financier Edward Stotesbury (d. 1938), a partner to J.P. Morgan and one of Philadelphia’s most prominent patrons. He was worth over $100 million at the height of his career. The suite was placed in his palatial mansion Whitemarsh Hall, a monument to American wealth and society in the early 20th century. Known as ‘the Versailles of America’, Whitemarsh was built by the most outstanding artisans of the day: Horace Trumbauer was the architect, while Duveen orchestrated the interiors together with the Royal decorator Sir Charles Allom and the Parisian firm of Avaloine.

The suite was then acquired by Anna Thomson Dodge, friend of Eva Stotesbury, widow of automobile magnate Horace Dodge and one of the richest women in the world. She used the same team of Trumbauer, Duveen, and Alavoine to create an equally impressive Rose Terrace on Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe Farms, which was primarily furnished with French 18th century furniture, much of it Royal. The suite was sold at Christie’s as part of the celebrated series of sales in 1970 and 1971. It was then placed on long-term loan at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California where it sat beneath Britain’s most famous portraits including Gainsborough’s Blue Boy.

Number 10 Downing Street is one of the most recognisable addresses in the world. From 1945-50 - under the new leadership of Prime Minister Clement Attlee - Downing Street was completely renovated, preserving its historical features. It was during this time that six of the Stansted armchairs and a settee were bought by the Ministry of Works - five chairs and the settee remain at Downing Street, the sixth chair was gifted to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The chairs have since furnished the White Drawing Room, whose impressive architectural backdrop was part of William Kent's refurbishment of the earlier 17th century house. The White Drawing Room has been the Prime Minister's private family room, and significantly, is often chosen as the backdrop for state meetings and interviews. In addition to post-war Prime Ministers, numerous heads of state and foreign dignitaries have been photographed seated in the Stansted chairs. Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who recognized the considerable importance of the suite, was painted seated in one of the chairs; the portrait hangs in the Carlton Club, the former gentleman's club which made her their first female honorary member in 1975. Dignitaries including Ronald Reagan, Baroness Thatcher and Barack Obama have all been photographed seated in the chairs.

The refined design is produced during a prime moment of classicism in England as promoted by the architect Robert Adam for his most sophisticated patrons. Each piece is capped by a ribbon-wrapped portrait medallion. The suite is attributed to preeminent London maker and designer John Linnell, known among today’s connoisseurs, particularly for his extensive commission at Osterley Park.

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