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Backstool (side chair)

Origin: England
OH: 40”; SH: 16½”; OW: 22 ½”; SW: 21½”; SD: 19”
Walnut, beech; iron, linen, flax and hair stuffing, silk and metallic thread fragments
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1956-522
Appearance: back stool with high, rectangular, upholstered back with rounded upper corners; square seat, upholstered over seat rails; cabriole front legs terminating in pad feet; cylindrical rear legs, flaring to rear and terminating in ovoid stump feet.

Construction: Carved front legs with applied side and front knee brackets nailed to legs and rails. Rails tenoned to legs; two vertical glue blocks (not original?) behind each front leg; diagonal internal braces nailed to rails in all four corners. Each mortise and tenon joint in seat frame pegged with one peg except rear side rails, which have three pegs each (two per joint probably added later) Rear stiles culminate in rake back legs on ovoid stump feet. Back tacking rail tenoned into stiles. Stiles tenoned into crest rail; front upper edge of crest rail chamfered.

Upholstery: The foundation upholstery of this back stool, though damaged, survives; the show material does not.

Seat: Narrow (~1.5 in wide) webbing strips (3 front to back, 2 side to side), striped in blue/green, grey, and tan; foundation linen and webbing tacked to top surfaces of seat rails. Stuff roll tacked to front face of front seat rail, around the corner of legs, and about three inches along outside faces of seat rail. Curled horsehair contained below top linen tacked to outside faces of front, side, and rear rails. Cord stitched through upholstery foundation layers to keep hair stuffing in place is visible under seat.

Back: Foundation linen with no webbing tacked to front faces of stiles, crest rail and tacking rail. Cord from stitches that hold stuffing in place visible from rear. Top linen tacked to outside faces of stiles, front face of tacking rail, and top surface of crest rail.

Evidence of show material: A strip of linen (“tacking cloth”) attached to a scrap of silk brocade tacked to rear face of rear seat rail and brought forward under tacking rail (this silk brocade would have covered the back of the chair). Tack evidence shows further remnants of show cloth, including long scraps of striped silk (red and yellow, perhaps) on rear faces of stiles (this striped silk was likely edges of the front show material); further evidence of silk brocades with reds, blacks, whites and green threads.

Materials: Walnut primary, beech secondary, webbing, tacks, foundation linen, flax and hair stuffing, top linen, silk fragments.
Label:Although the joiner and upholsterer economized on the frame and foundation upholstery of this chair, small fragments of the show material embedded beneath the upholstery tacks and shadow marks on the top linen created by the oxidation of the metallic threads in the show material reveal that a fine brocaded silk covered this back stool. The application of the high-quality show material is curious to today’s eye. The upholsterer centered it from selvage to selvage, but the primary figure appears off-center on both the chair back and seat. Woven as a drop pattern, intended to be joined along the side by offsetting the pattern diagonally, the motif needed two widths to create the vertical design, twice what could be woven on a standard silk loom. The textile was probably designed to be used for clothing rather than upholstery. To center the pattern on the back and seat, the upholsterer would have needed to seam it down the center vertically. While twenty-first-century taste might conclude that attaching the fabric off-center is undesirable, many surviving pieces of upholstery demonstrate that centering and positioning textile patterns precisely was not always important to craftsmen and their middle-class consumers in the eighteenth century. Clients may have aspired to the latest fashion but could not afford to purchase the extra yardage required to cover suites of furniture with perfectly positioned, uniformly matched textiles. Instead, emulating the gentry, they commissioned pieces like this back stool, putting up with construction flaws that the upholstery concealed and tolerating imperfectly positioned cloth, all in the name of fashion.
Inscription(s):"Bond" painted on bottom of side of frame.