We have recently purchased this armchair at auction. Known as the Famulus, it dates from the mid 1930s and was designed by J P Hully and made by P E Gane and Co. of Bristol.
John Parkinson Hully (1882 – 1944) worked for Gillows of Lancaster before becoming Chief Designer for Bath Cabinet Makers. By the mid 1930s he was in-house designer at Gane’s, coinciding with Marcel Breuer’s time as Consultant to the firm in 1935-36.
The chair is made of birch and formed by the intersection of steam bent curves, the arms bending through 180 degrees to form sledge feet. At first glance, this is a feature it shares with the armchairs designed in 1935 by Marcel Breuer for the home of Crofton Gane, however, on those chairs the arms are composed of two sections, only partially bent and then pegged together. This chair must therefore date from after 1935, when Gane’s had acquired the machinery necessary for steam bending.
An identical chair, which belonged to Virginia Woolf, is in the collection of the National Trust at Monk’s House in East Sussex. Apparently Woolf bought a number of these chairs in the late 1930s for Monk’s House and gave one to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, which is now in the Studio at Charleston.As soon as funds become available, the current 1970s brown Dralon upholstery will be replaced with something more period appropriate.