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Sofa

1795-1805
Origin: America, Maryland, Baltimore
OH: 35 1/2"; OW: 81"; OD: 31"
Mahogany, black walnut, yellow pine, and lightwood inlays
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2000-2
Appearance: Cabriole sofa with serpentine shaped crest rail curving around into tops of arms and arm supports; cross banded mahogany crest rail (replaced) and arm supports molded with double bead on edges; eight legs, front four legs square in cross section, tapered, with brass cup casters, fronts and exterior sides of outer legs only inlaid with lightwood stringing around perimeter ending in inlaid light and dark wood cuffs on three sides of each leg; rear four legs square in cross section with slight rake at base towards rear and surface mounted brass casters (replaced).

Construction: The seat frame consists of four seat rails tenoned into four corner legs. The front corner joints are reinforced with miter cut corner braces (replaced) set in notches in the front and side seat rails. Two interior front legs and two interior rear legs (replaced) are attached to the seat rails with bridle joints. A pair of down-curving medial seat rails (proper right replaced) are dove-tailed into the upper edge of the seat rails directly above the interior front and rear legs.

The front legs are integral with the front corner stiles which are mortised into the arm rails. The arm rails are mortised into the curved end sections of the crest rail which are in turn mortised into the center section of the crest rail. The rear corner legs extend upward to form the rear corner stiles which are mortised into the crest rail (rear corner legs reshaped at base with taper). (Note: The mortises cut in the crest rail for the rear corner stile tenons were cut 1" longer than required for the tenon and the mortises in the arm rails for the front stile tenons were cut ½" longer than required. Wedges were inserted in the resulting open spaces.)

Two interior back stiles are mortised into the crest rail and back set rail. The mahogany arm rails and front stiles are carved with a double bead to join with a (now missing) molding on top of the crest rail to form a continuous surface from front stile to front stile.

Side tacking rails are mortised into the curved rear corner stiles and miter cut and nailed into notches in the front stiles. The curved back corner tacking rails are mortised into the rear corner stiles and miter cut and nailed into notches in the left and right interior back stiles. The back tacking rail is mortised into the left and right interior back stiles.
Label:This elegant sofa descended in the Holladay family of Prospect Hill Plantation in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Built in 1806 by Waller Holliday, a planter, attorney, and member of the Virginia Assembly, Prospect Hill was a spacious, fashionable yet unpretentious Federal house. The same can be said for the sofa, presumably part of the original furnishings of the home. It too was elegant and stylish without being ornate. The sofa’s original black haircloth fabric did not survive and has been replaced with reproduction haircloth and decorative brass tacks to replicate the sofa’s original appearance.
Provenance:This sofa has a history of ownership by Walter Holladay of Prospect Hill plantation, Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Built in 1806, the house is one of the county's largest and best preserved early dwellings. The sofa may have been among the original furnishings at Prospect Hill. Detailed original floor plans for the house, some showing potential furniture placement, survive at the Virginia Historical Society.