COLLECTION: Furniture

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Armchair

ca. 1920
Origin: America, Tennessee (possibly)
OH: 40 1/2"; OW: 22 1/4"; OD: 22 1/4" OH: 102.8 cm.; OW: 56.5 cm.; OD: 56.5 cm.
Walnut, pine, and stain.
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1992.2000.1
Armchair with a back composed of one curved upper and and one curved lower rail which are mortised into the back posts. Three vertically-positioned boards are mortised into these rails (one wide board in the center flanked by two narrow ones). The arms are rectangular in section and are mortised and pinned into the front and back posts. The seat is composed of a frame with notched corners enclosing three seat boards. This seat unit is supported by four rails which are mortised into the front and back posts. Two side stretchers, joined by a medial stretcher, are mounted slightly above the front stretcher. The front and side stretchers are mortised into the posts. All four feet taper towards the bottom,and the back feet flare slightly backwards below the seat rail. The front posts curve inwards on each side between the arms and the seat. Each front and back post terminates in a carved, bearded male human head which is an extension of the post. The upper and lower back rails, seat rails, and stretchers are secured with through tenons and keys: the arms are mortised and pinned.
Label:Ceremonial furniture reflects the power and prestige of its users. Oral traditions maintain that this armchair was used as a deacon's chair in an African-American church in Tennessee. The carved human heads are reminiscent of both Teke sculpture from Zaire and carved heads on some Chokwe ceremonial chairs from Angola. Large numbers of Teke and Chokwe people were brought to America as slaves. Possibly a descendant of one of these groups; the maker of this armchair, incorporated African traditions in an object intended to be used in African-American religious ceremonies.
Provenance:The armchair has an unverified history of having been used as a Deacon's chair in a Tennessee African-American church. Unidentified owner(s); Robert Reeves, Atlanta, Ga.; unidentified antiques dealer?; James E. Allen, Atlanta, Ga.