Thursday, July 17, 2014

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A Turkey Work Chair, 1605

The Victoria & Albert Museum

We have looked at “turkey work” before. “Turkey work” is a technique of hand-knotting wool pike in an imitation of Eastern carpets. The “turkey” in question is the country, not the bird.

Chairs of this type were quite fashionable in the Seventeenth Century. In this particular example, the turkey-work cover wasn’t created for the chair, but was, rather, cut down from a carpet of earlier date than the chair.

The curators at the V&A contend that the application of the carpet to the chair doesn’t date to the chair’s 1605 creation. In fact, though the carpet is older than the chair, it appears to have been used as upholstery on the chair in the Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century as a replacement for the original turkey work, which was probably ruined. Doing so would have ensured that the chair maintained a “suitably antique appearance.”

This fine chair comes from Beaudesert, Staffordshire, from a house of Sixteenth-century origins. The house had to be substantially rebuilt in the Nineteenth century. A fire in 1909 destroyed much of the property and its contents. This chair is probably part of those furnishings that were damaged in the fire—explaining the replacement of the turkey work. The house was demolished in 1935 and the historical contents were acquired by the V&A. 

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