Christie's auctions suite of furniture sat upon by 'America's collecting elite'

Christie's New York's 500 Years: Decorative Arts Europe sale on November 23 will include Oriental Carpets and pieces from the historic Stansted Park suite of giltwood seat furniture.

The suite comprises three pairs of armchairs and a settee (estimated at $70,000-110,000 per pair of chairs and $50,000-80,000 for the settee).

Boasting a refined design produced during a prime moment of classicism in England, the suite is attributed to the pre-eminent London maker and designer, John Linnell (1729-96). He is especially known among today's connoisseurs for his extensive commission at Osterley Park.

The value of John Linnell's suite is backed by a remarkable provenance

This sale marks the third time that Christie's will have offered the suite in the past 100 years since it left Stansted.

Historians understand that the elegant suite was almost certainly commissioned by the 2nd Earl of Halifax (the statesman after whom Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada is named) for his stately mansion at Stansted Park in Sussex, UK.

The furniture remained there until a fire consumed the building in 1900. It was later sold at Christie's in 1911 when it entered a glamorous new chapter among America's collecting elite.

'The Versailles of America'

Eleven chairs and two settees (including the offered lot) were acquired by the financier Edward Stotesbury (d. 1938) at the 1911 auction.

A partner to JP Morgan and one of Philadelphia's most prominent patrons, Stotesbury was worth over $100m at the height of his career.

The suite at Whitemarsh Hall, circa 1922

He placed the suite at his palatial mansion in Whitemarsh Hall, which was 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 Joseph Duveen, 1st Baron Duveen - considered one of the most influential art dealers of all time, and to whom Stotesbury was a client - orchestrated the interiors with Royal decorator Sir Charles Allom and the Parisian firm of Avaloine.

The suite was then acquired by Anna Thomson Dodge, the widow of automobile magnate Horace Dodge and one of the world's wealthiest women.

Here it is years later, at the Huntington Library

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.

The place was primarily furnished with French 18th century furniture, much of it Royal. The suite was later sold at Christie's as part of the celebrated series of sales in 1970 and 1971.

Sat upon by world leaders, including Margaret Thatcher

Thereafter, it was 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.

Since then, five further chairs and a settee from the Stansted suite have been used by Prime Ministers and visiting dignitaries at 10 Downing Street in London since it was acquired in 1946.

Various wonderful depictions of world leaders seated in the chairs - including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's painted portrait at the Carlton Club showing her seated in a Stansted chair - confirm the suit's provenance after this point.

Christie's New York sale will be held on November 23. Interested buyers are invited to attend pre-sale viewings at Christie's Rockefeller Galleries from November 19-22.


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