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Armchair, upholstered

ca. 1760
Origin: England
OH: 37 5/8”; SH: 14¾”; OW: 27”; SW: 27”; SD: 24 7/8”
Mahogany and oak; linen, hair stuffing, iron, and wool (fragment)
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1982-152
Appearance: Open arm chair with upholstered back, seat, and tops of arms; chair back is rectangular with a serpentine crest rail retaining evidence of upholstery peaks (now missing) at ends; cyma-curved arms with original "French Edge" upholstery foundation extend to mahogany arm supports that slope down to the front seat rail corners; the arm supports are carved in a guilloche design with rosettes in each opening and a stippled background; squared seat has original oak diagonal braces half dovetailed into the seat rails; the straight front legs, square in cross section, are carved with the same guilloche and rosette design as the arm supports; carved C scroll knee brackets on front and sides of front legs; rear legs, square in cross section, rake towards back; rectangular back stretcher between rear legs; cyma-curved side and serpentine medial stretcher are pierced with rectangular shapes, small circles and quatrefoils with scrolls along top edge at upward curves.

Construction: Front legs carved on front and outside faces; rear legs rake back and rise to form supports for back. Sides rails and serpentine and pierced side stretchers tenoned between front and rear legs; front seat rail tenoned between front legs; rear stretcher and rear seat rail tenoned between rear legs; serpentine and pierced medial stretcher through-tenoned between side stretchers. Four diagonal seat braces glued and notched into angled notches in seat rails. Carved c-shaped brackets glued in place under seat rails flanking front legs; shaped knee blocks glued to front faces of rear legs. Carved arm supports tenoned into front legs and seat rail (i.e. mortise cut after seat rails joined); arm rests tenoned into arm supports and likely into front of back stiles. Back stiles screwed into rear leg supports; additional back braces glued to top of rear legs and rear face of back stiles; back stiles sit in notches in side seat rails. Serpentine crest rail tenoned between back stiles.

Upholstery: None of the original upholstery remains on this armchair except for the original arm pads, which survive intact. Squared upholstery peaks are glued in the corner of the arm rest and back to produce a squared profile for the arm pad. Shadow marks suggest that originally there were upholstery peaks which extended from the front corners of the crest rail, as well.

Materials: Mahogany primary, oak secondary, tacks, hair stuffing, top linen, wool fragment
Label:This English armchair frame had been reupholstered many times prior to its acquisition by Colonial Williamsburg. It survives with its original arm pads intact. A thorough examination of this frame revealed that it was originally covered in green wool using a high-profile, boxed upholstery technique.

Although the serpentine arms have a slight outward curve, the design of the chair itself is boxy. The chair maker, who clearly understood the upholsterer’s craft, provided a high-quality, well-constructed piece with structural elements to accommodate boxed upholstery, not only on the seat and back but also for the arm pads. The joiner went to great lengths to attach the back frame of the chair to the leg stumps to achieve the proper angle of the back and provide a smooth transition between the back frame and the leg stumps. The angle of the back extends farther outward than armchairs designed for low, tapered profiles, which are built with chamfered edges, as in Colonial Williamsburg’s 1930-178. Chairs designed to have boxed upholstery required about an inch more stuffing than low profile chairs, and thus required the chair maker to adjust the back design accordingly.