Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Her Majesty’s Furniture: The Queen Victoria Drawing Room Chair, 1851

Henry Eyles, 1851
Walnut, carved and inlaid, inset with a
Worcester porcelain plaque, with an
embroidered satin seat.
This and all images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This dear little chair was not made for Queen Victoria’s use, but, rather, as an homage to the Queen upon the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851. The maker, Henry Eyles, described this piece as “a drawing room chair.” Inspired by the popular styles of Eighteenth Century French furnishings, the chair features a “shaped back” and cabriole legs—a style which was considered quite appropriate and fashionable for drawing rooms in the 1840s and 1850s. With its pale color palette and embroidered seat cover, such a chair would have been intended for the use in a lady’s drawing or reception room.
The maker, Henry Eyles, made his living as an upholsterer in Bath and kept a shop-front at 31 Broad Street, London. Later, after 1851 he opened another location at 7 Margaret's Buildings. Shortly before the 1851 Great Exhibition, Eyles was eager to show off his skill and designed this chair for presentation. It was exhibited by Eyles in Class XXVI (Furniture) and was considered quite unconventional for the porcelain plaque with the image of Queen Victoria, and the delicately embroidered Royal Arms on the seat. Eyles’ reasoning was two-fold. He wished to demonstrate his creative abilities, and also pay tribute to the monarch. Here, he has succeeded on both counts.

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