The Drydens’ furniture at Canons Ashby

Portrait of Edward Dryden and his family by Jonathan Richardson the elder, c. 1716. ©NTPL

It’s nice if you know the names of the people conncected with specific pieces of early-eighteenth-century furniture; it is even better when you have a portrait of them.

View of the west front of Canons Ashby from the Green Court. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The above portrait of Edward Dryden, his wife Elizabeth Allen and their children was purchased by the National Trust with the help of the Art Fund in 1987. Edward, a wealthy London grocer, was the nephew of the poet John Dryden.

Walnut chair with embroidered cover, part of a set supplied by Thomas Phil. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The picture hangs at Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, the house that Edward remodeled between 1708 and 1710. The painting also includes a glimpse of the just completed garden.

Sofa with needlework cover, from the set suplied by Thomas Phil. ©NTPL

The set of furniture was originally supplied by Thomas Phill of the Strand, who in 1716 submitted a bill for chairs with ‘frames of ye newest hashion stufft up in Lynnen’ and ‘for makeing ye needle worke covers & fixeing ym in the chaires.’ They were sold in 1938, but bought back and donated to Canons Ashby by an anonymous benefactor in 1983, soon after the National Trust had acquired and restored the house.

4 Responses to “The Drydens’ furniture at Canons Ashby”

  1. style court Says:

    The placement of the embroidered covers on the furniture — the way the curving stems seem to climb and work with the curves — is very inspiring.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes it is nice when you can see two elements coming together like that. isn’t it?

    I wonder, too, whether Dali got his idea for his ‘Mae West’ sofa from this kind of predecessor? :)

  3. little augury Says:

    He was in trade? was his status-or what appears to be-typical? pgt

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes, we would call him a businessman or entrepreneur – an example of someone who made his money in the city and then bought a country estate for the added status, and to provide continuity to the dynasty. And it worked: generations of Drydens lived at Canons Ashby until the late twentieth century.

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