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A prototype 'Chair No. 229', circa 1880
Designed By Dr Christopher Dresser (1834-1904)
Made by Thomas Knight, Bath (dates unknown)
for the Art Furnishers' Alliance (1880-83)
Provenance: British private collection until summer 2020
Cuban mahogany with later upholstery
76cm high at back
42cm high at seat
Amongst the designs in the Thomas Knight archive, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, is a single page containing sixteen designs of chairs numbering from 217 to 232. The index states that the page shows 'Dr Dresser's designs'. This chair can be identified as No. 229 (see below).
Of those sixteen designs, examples of ten had been identified before the discovery of our chair. Nine of those are represented by just a single example and there are at least four known examples of no. 218 (see endnote for details).
We believe that Thomas Knight made one example of each of the sixteen designs as prototypes to stock in the Art Furnishers' Alliance’s showroom at 157 New Bond Street London. Pieces were then made to order. This theory can be strengthened when the construction method and detailed measurements are examined further; please contact us for details.
A design for a decorated version of this model appeared in the Furniture Gazette on 2nd October 1880, the year that Dr Dresser was guest editor of the magazine. The 'occasional chair' is described as being '... light and elegant and should be useful'. See a front and side view below.
Among a group of black and white photographs within the 'Chubb archive' held at the London Metropolitan Archives London, is a photograph of a decorated version.
Following the Art Furnishers' Alliance's bankruptcy in early 1883, Chubb as a major shareholder instructed the auctioneers Thurgood & Martin to sell the remaining stock. Accordingly, they held a sale on the 24th August 1883. Lot 145 was a 'Dark mahogany octagon back chair, stuffed and covered in crimson silk (Dr. Dresser's design)'. It is unclear if the chair described is our prototype or the decorated version shown in the black and white photographs held in the Chubb Archive.
No. 217 see lot 52, Paul Reeves & Sothebys, Best of British 20th Mar 2008.
No. 219 see the Dorman Museum collection.
No. 223 see fig. 536 page 255, Dresser's Decorative Design, Christopher Morley, Beresford C. 2010.
No. 222 see the Dorman Museum collection.
No. 232 see fig. 185 page 157, Christopher Dresser 1834-1904, Michael Whiteway, Skira Editore 2001.
Three examples of No. 218:
1. See fig. 190 page 159, Christopher Dresser 1834-1904, Michael Whiteway, Skira Editore 2001.
2. See page 81, Christopher Dresser, Stuart Durant, Academy Group Ltd, 1993.
3. See the Wolfsonian Museum collection
4. See Lot 2216, Lawrences Crewkerne Auctioneers, 18th Jan 2019
No. 227 see fig. 192 page 160, Christopher Dresser 1834-1904, Michael Whiteway, Skira Editore 2001.
No. 226 see V&A Museum collection.
No. 228 similar with Paul Reeves London 2018
No. 231 See fig. 193 page 161, Christopher Dresser 1834-1904, Michael Whiteway, Skira Editore 2001.