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Couch

1819-1821
Origin: America, Maryland, Baltimore
OH: 36”; SH: 16½”; OW: 90”; SW: 79”; OD: 24"
Tulip poplar, paint and brass; webbing, iron, linen, hair stuffing, wool, and silk
Acquisition funded by Bridget and Alfred Ritter in honor of Milly McGehee and Deanne Deavours
Acc. No. 2003-1,1A
Appearance:
Grecian style recamier couch with rosewood graining and gilt and paint decoration; couch has taller, outward scroll at head and a shorter, inward scroll at foot; scrolls fully upholstered; front of scrolls painted with gilt rosettes; front of the scrolled ends and seat rail painted with three elongated gilt elements with central rosettes and foliate motifs terminating in anthemions; four saber legs ornamented on front legs only with gilt motifs, all terminating in brass paw castors; upholstered couch back extends in a sweeping curve from behind the scrolled head of the couch about three quarters of the couch length, ending in a scroll with an applied brass ornament in center (brass ornament partially original). Part of a suite of rosewood grained and paint and gilt furniture including two pier tables and four side chairs.

Construction:
Full length front and rear rails; side rails and medial rail tenoned between front and rear rails. Feet tenoned to underside of front and rear rails, braced with blocks (screwed?) and full triangular brackets (attachment unclear). Painted wood faces of rails, which extend slightly higher than rails to create a rabbet, attached from inside with screws; scrolls at the head and the foot of the couch were lapped and screwed into the side seat rails while the paint-decorated front faces of the scrolls tie into the front seat rail.

Closely set outer battens between arm supports covered with exterior upholstery. At least one interior batten set in notches between arm supports. Arm rest construction obscured by original upholstery.

Fully upholstered removable back, with original upholstery, sits into notches in rear seat rail and screwed(?). Further construction obscured by upholstery.

Removable slip seat: side rails and two curved medial battens through-tenoned between front and back rails. Additional boards shaped to curve upward toward outside edges applied (possibly nailed) to top of side and rear rails to create a sharp edge and cavity for upholstery; these additional boards are narrower than the seat rails providing a rabbet into which the webbing and bottom linen was nailed; applied board at foot notched on bottom face for three slots to pull webbing strips through during upholstery process. Thin board nailed vertically to proper right rear face of rear rail creates rabbet on proper left two-thirds of length for placement of removable couch back. Front rail height shorter than rear rail with shaped board for application of stitched roll to height of shaped board.

Upholstery:
Couch survives with all of its original foundation and much of its original red wool cover and red and yellow silk tape as well as its original red wool bolster filled with curled horsehair. Slip seat has a stitched front edge that creates a sharp vertical edge profile for the seat. Red wool on rear of back seamed up the center and composed of a very similar but not identical stamped design to the red wool covering all other parts of the couch.

Current stamped red wool show cloth and reproduction tape applied in a non-intrusive manner over original materials.

Materials: Tulip poplar, webbing, tacks, foundation linen, hair stuffing, top linen, wools, silk tape, brass casters.
Label:Josiah and Ann Bayly of Cambridge, Maryland, probably purchased this Grecian couch from Hugh Finlay's fancy furniture manufactory in Baltimore between 1819 and 1821. The couch was part of a larger suite of gilded and grain-painted furniture that included two pier tables and a dozen side chairs. Such goods were the height of fashion in the 1820s. The suite remained in the family home until 2002.

Over the years the couch's painted surfaces were dulled by dirt, darkening varnish, sunlight, and abrasion, while later textiles were placed over the original fabric as fashions changed. Colonial Williamsburg's conservators removed the later layers of upholstery and uncovered the original textiles. Copies of the first wool and silk were then installed in a nonintrusive manner that did not harm the surviving upholstery and frame. Conservators also carefully cleaned the painted surfaces using a microscope and special solvents. The cleaning revealed the luster of the original gilded decoration and painted highlights. Losses to the surface decoration were sparingly in-painted.
Provenance:Previously owned by Josiah (elected Attorney General of the State of Maryland in 1831) and Ann H. Bayly, descended in the same family until 2002. Ann H. Bayly's probate inventory, taken June 30, 1857, lists "2 pier tables, gilt $10," 1 mareen sofa & 2 ottomans $8" and "1 doz chairs $20."