Coburg, Germany, 1851
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Donated from Holyrood Palace
Here we see one of a set of four ornate Gothic-style armchairs which match an impressive sideboard. The set was made in the German state of Coburg (the home of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert) and was sent specifically to Prince Albert’s 1851 Great Exhibition to represent Germany’s creative work. The chairs were not intended to be thrones (though that’s the overall look), but rather were meant to demonstrate the skill of the designers and carvers. Theodor Behrens, who was responsible for the carving, adorned each chair with slightly different motifs and carved an inscription, including his name, on the back of this one. The original wool tassels of the fringe were bright pink as opposed to the gold that we see today.
The set of furniture was praised by the Art-Journal Illustrated Catalogue in 1851 for the carving “in the German-Gothic style of the middle ages.” The chairs were especially praised while the sideboard received an “honourable mention” in the jury reports for the exhibition.
The sideboard and chairs were installed in the Evening Drawing Room, part of the Royal Apartments on the first floor of Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, in 1852. Victoria and Albert used Holyrood as a “stopping place” when they traveled to their Aberdeen estate, Balmoral. The palace’s Evening Drawing Room was also furnished with a suite of furniture which was upholstered in crimson velvet. In 1863, Queen Victoria commissioned a watercolor of the room, showing two of these chairs flanking the sideboard, to record her happy memories of holidays in Scotland with Prince Albert.