Sunday, January 19, 2014

Her Majesty's Furniture: A Chippendale Armchair, 1740-60

Drawing Room Chair of Mahogany
Thomas Chippendale
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Myriad variations of this upholstered drawing-room armchair could have been found in almost any wealthy, mid-18th century household.  This particular mahogany chair is exceptional because it came from the workshop of Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779).  The carver has used stylized dolphin heads as terminals for the chair's feet and the arms.

Chippendale's original design incorporated the whole body of the dolphin - its tail visible at the top of the leg, but the carver has adapted the design, possibly because this chair was likely part of a set which was a special commission.  The scale of the chair and quality of the carving are further  indicators that this chair was part of a commission for a set of seating furniture for a large drawing room. According to the V&A, "At least four other chairs and a footstool of the same carved design are known today."

Thomas Chippendale recommended that tapestry or needlework should be used for drawing-room chairs almost exclusively over other materials. The embroidery on this chair probably dates from the 1740s and may have been cut down from a set of larger wall hangings.

This chair is numbered "IV" of a set of six.  Another from the set lives at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool and four others were shown by Messrs. Partridge in their summer exhibition in 1939. 

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