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Sofa

1815-1825
Origin: America, Virginia, Alexandria (possibly)
OH: 33¼”; SH: 14”; OW: 95½”; SW: 75¾”; SD 23¾
Mahogany, ash and white pine
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Armistead L. Boothe.
Acc. No. 1988-298
Appearance: Empire or Late Classical sofa with two scrolled arms, reeded front arm supports terminate in brass rosettes; rounded smooth crest rail with three rectangular panels; straight mahogany veneered skirt; four hairy paw carved legs, front two with acanthus leaf carved knee blocks, ending in brass paw feet (replaced).

Construction:
Seat construction: Full length front and rear seat rails. Side seat rails likely tenoned between front and rear seat rails; all seat rails veneered, leaving upper portions of sides and rear rails uncovered as a tacking rabbet; veneer above front feet (~10 inches from corners inward) ~ 1/8 thicker than rest. Glue blocks present in rear corners, shadow evidence for blocks in front. 4 sets of vertical grooves in front and rear seat rails for medial stretchers, now missing (almost certainly removed to install later box springs, tack evidence for several campaigns of which can be found on the undersides of all four seat rails); one center rail, probably added later, with glue blocks on each end on proper right side, not in a groove. Removable front tacking rail nailed to front seat rail with nails set in holes every ~6 inches; a small lap joint connects rail to arm supports; proper right lap joint damaged, with loss of wood on both rail and arm support, repaired with newer wood; inside top edge chamfered; fragments of webbing and foundation linen between tacking rail and seat rail present; webbing strips sit in shallow grooves in front seat rail. 5/16 inch high strip of wood wedged between front seat rail and front tacking rail to hide view of foundation linen from front.

Arm construction: Rear and front serpentine arm supports (solid for entire s-curve) secured with 2 nails each from interior sides into seat rails; front proper left arm support broken and repaired at lowest curve. Vertical grooves inside arm supports, flush with edge of side seat rails, show where stuffing battens were originally present (likely removed at same point as medial stretchers). Arm rests likely round tenoned between arm supports; brass applied rosettes at either end of arm rest (on arm supports); scrolls of arm supports on proper left broken and repaired; glued linen wrapped around all four ends of arm rests, to prevent end-grain damage from mortises. 4 battens set between arm supports, lowest one wider and chamfered on inside top edge; lowest two and uppermost battens set in grooves and nailed; second batten from top tenoned (and perhaps also in shallow recess).

Back construction: The back of this couch has three tacking rails: lowest tacking rail for seat positioned directly on rear seat rail; half an inch above that is the lower back tacking rail, while the upper back tacking rail is directly beneath crest rail. Two vertical battens tenoned between seat rail and upper back tacking rail; 3 sections of rear seat tacking rail tenoned between serpentine arm supports and vertical battens, positioned directly on seat rail, but not full width of seat rail – creates ledge for foundation webbing and linen; 3 sections of lower back tacking rail tenoned between vertical battens and stile boards, with gap between back tacking rail and seat tacking rail. Stile boards tenoned to bottom horizontal portion of arm supports and “c” curve transition boards. Upper back tacking rail tenoned at an angle between “c” curve transition boards (which link arm supports and crest rail), which are in turn mortised to stile boards and attached with screws to arm supports (modern screw visible from front in proper right side, plugs in arm supports visible on both ends – may originally have been mortise-and-tenoned). Crest rail attached to upper tacking rail via four screws set in screw pockets in the tacking rail.

Feet construction: Carved legs tenoned to front and rear seat rails. Carved wing brackets for front feet originally integral to feet, now both broken; carved fronts applied to backing blocks, probably carved after attachment; glue blacks of similar shape to rail blocks support the wings; proper left side reinforced with newer wood. Brass paw feet latter additions, original feet likely had wooden paw feet; evidence of breaks.

Upholstery: Fragments of webbing and foundation linen still present under front tacking rail.

Materials: Mahogany primary, ash and white pine secondary.
Label:While this neoclassical sofa does not retain any of its original upholstery, construction and tacking evidence show that its arm rests had double layers of filling on the upper rounded arm rests. This double layer would have matched the profile of bolsters accompanied by knife edged pillows. A full length seat cushion would have been added for comfort, since the curved reeded arm supports required the upholsterer to add a tacking rail to the front of the sofa which produced a sharp edge and a low profile. Surviving fiber evidence suggests that the sofa has been upholstered over the years in haircloth and plant based textiles (cotton or linen).
Provenance:Donor believes that the sofa was acquired by her mother from an Alexandria antique dealer, Mr. LaPorte around 1914.

The late 19th century inscription on the back of the sofa probably refers to Augustine Loughborough (1852-1931). He was listed in the 1895 Washington, DC city directory as a clerk, and married Caroline Virginia Fauntleroy of White Post, Clarke County, Virginia in 1880. White Post is just west of Round HIll, Loudoun County, Virginia. From 1875 until 1896 Round Hill was the terminus of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad and was a destination from Washington DC. This inscription is consistent with railroad shipping labels from that time period. If this sofa descended in the Loughborough family, it could have originally been owned by Augustine's grandfather, Nathan Loughborough Sr. (1772-1848) who appears to have been born in Fairfax County, Virginia, and lived in Washington, DC.
Inscription(s):Painted in black paint or ink on back of crest rail "A Loughborough. Round Hill. Va."