Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Armchair

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1765 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walnut, carved and gilt, with renewed gesso and gilding, with modern upholstery including green velvet covers and metal-thread braid; the loose frames for the upholstery are in pine, beech and poplar, attached with iron screw eyes

  • Museum number:

    W.10-1973

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case PL6 []

This chair, originally part of a set, comes from the Château de Chanteloup, and is branded with the inventory mark used after 1786 when the château belonged to the Duc de Penthièvre. But it may have been made originally for the château's previous owner, the Duc de Choiseul (1719-1785). Choiseul, who was the most powerful minister in France until he fell from the King's favour in 1770, was one of the first French patrons to champion the Neo-classical style in the 1760s. The curvilinear outlines of this chair still express the rococo taste, but it is carved with deliberately 'Grecian' ornament, including the Vitruvian scroll moulding on the back- and seat-frames and the swags of husks, tied with ribbons, on the front of the seat.

Physical description

A large giltwood elbow chair with a raked cartouche-shaped back raised on curved struts above the seat, which is of serpentine form loosely echoing the back, with sides swept up behind the front legs to merge with the supports of the scrolled arms. The broken-cabriole front legs and simple cabriole back legs all end in scroll feet on shallow faceted plinths. The chair is upholstered à chassis with loose back, seat and arm-pads covered in red silk damask, which, together with all the structural upholstery, is modern..

The back frame, with lobed top and bottom rails, is carved with a guilloche on the slanted front face, framed within square beadings; at each top corner the lower beading ends in an S-scroll and turns back on itself to form the back edge of a channel along the top of the frame. At the centre of the top rail is carved a shield framed with acanthus at each side and with laurel spreading across the guilloche; and the centre of the bottom rail is carved with a flowerhead in an oval frame.

The seat is carved with further guilloche, beneath a channelled moulding as on the back-frame, centred on a front apron tablet mounted with a ribbon-tied laurel swag, echoing the top rail. At the sides the seat sweeps up to form the base of the arm-support, and the guilloche ends at the top of the seat, stopped by the front beading which twists across the face of the support. Above this the arm-support is carved in four twisted facets – three formed as shaped fielded panels within S-scrolled beadings, and the outer facet carved with piasters which continue around the front and top of the scrolled arm-end. Suspended from the spiral scrolls at the sides a laurel swag is looped across the front of the arm-support, again echoing the top rail and front seat rail; on the right arm, but curiously not on the left arm, the swag is centred by a cluster of berries. Further shaped fielded panels are carved on both sides of the dished arm-rest, in front of and behind the arm-pad, and on the front face of the back struts, which are defined by S-scrolls twisting across their front and outer faces.

The front legs are each carved at the knee with acanthus, and below this with two flutes defined by raised mouldings which continue through the spiral-scroll foot; while the back legs are more simply decorated, with stylised leaves at the knee, and concave back and side facets below between raised mouldings. This moulded concave profile extends across the back face of the back seat rail, which is of double ogee form; but the back frame above is undecorated.

The walnut chair-frame is of mortise-and-tenon construction, apparently pegged throughout, and with double pegs in the seat rails. (At several joints the pegs do not show through the gilding, but since they can be seen at every joint with the seat-frame, on the ungilded inside face, it can be assumed that they are used consistently.) The full-height back stiles are slightly sloped, so that the back is raked and the back legs slant forwards. The top and bottom rails of the back are tenoned into these stiles, and the seat rails into the back stiles and front legs. Each arm-support is tenoned to the side rail and the arm-rest, which in turn is tenoned into the back stile. The rebate for the drop-in seat is cut from the solid rails and front legs.

The seat itself, evidently modern (and with no chisel-struck number), is made of softwood with side rails tenoned to the back rail and joined at a mitred angle to the front rail, possibly by loose tongues inserted from the top (since they are not obviously either tenoned or half-lapped). A filed photograph of the back frame suggests that this too is softwood, with top and bottom rails probably tenoned or half-lapped to the uprights. The back frame fits tightly within the main frame (inserted from the back), and is secured with two modern screws through the bottom rail (replacing original fittings in two screw-threaded holes, now disused, in the same rail). The arm-pads, presumably on a solid wood base, are each secured with two iron screw-eyes driven up through the underside of the arm-rest.

In the main frame all four leg joints are now reinforced by large ogee-shaped blocks, screwed into the seat rails (and the front right block also screwed to the leg). The front rail has been patched in the middle section of the rebate moulding; and there may well be other repairs, concealed by the gilding.

The chair appears to have been stripped to the wood and regilded on new gesso and new red bole. The new leaf has been laid without great precision in the joining of adjacent sheets, and it has been evenly and heavily rubbed back to reveal much of the red bole, presumably in a deliberate attempt to ‘distress’ the surface.

The loose seat, back (including the outside-back) and arm-pads are covered in green silk velvet, trimmed (on the seat and inside-back) with metal-thread braid. The seat is upholstered with a modern (post-World War II) foundation of webbing and base cloth, both in plain-woven jute. The webbing is ‘open’, but quite closely spaced (with six front-to-back strips and five lateral strips), leaving only small gaps through which the base cloth is exposed. The seat appears to be upholstered with a stitched rolled edge, while the back may be skate-stuffed, rather fully.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca. 1765 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Walnut, carved and gilt, with renewed gesso and gilding, with modern upholstery including green velvet covers and metal-thread braid; the loose frames for the upholstery are in pine, beech and poplar, attached with iron screw eyes

Marks and inscriptions

Branded 'CP' flanking an anchor and surmounted by a closed crown
On underside of front seat rail. The inventory brand of the Château de Chanteloup, during the period (1786--93) when the château was owned by the Duc de Penthièvre -- a clue that the chair, which dates from the 1760s, may already have been at Chanteloup when the château belonged to the Duc de Choiseul (1761 to his death in 1785).

V
Struck with a chisel on the top face of the rebated front seat rail -- implying an original set of at least five chairs.

Dimensions

Height: 102 cm, Width: 77.5 cm maximum, across arms, Width: 58.5 cm back, Height: 38 cm seat, Height: 36.7 cm front seat rail, Width: 68.8 cm seat (behind arm-supports), Depth: 64 cm seat, Depth: 80 cm maximum, from front seat rail to top rail of back

Object history note

Possibly made for Etienne-François de Choiseul-Stanville (1719-185), comte de Stanville and duc de Choiseul and d'Amboise, for the Château de Chanteloup. Stamped with the inventory mark for Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon (1725-93), duc de Penthièvre and Grand Amiral de France, who purchased Chanteloup from Choiseul's heirs. Furniture was sold from Chanteloup at that time, so it is possible that the armchair was brought there from elsewhere. Later history incomplete. With Alexander & Berendt Ltd., 14 Davies Street, London W.1, by 1969 and purchased from them 16 April 1973, £3,250

Historical significance: This armchair illustrates style in transition, still featuring the cabriole legs of rococo, but the frame carved with the formal guilloche decoration that was one of the dominant motifs of the new, neo-classical style, as were the swags of laurel and the rectangular tablet in the middle of the seat rail.

Historical context note

The duc de Choiseul (1719-85) was a military officer, diplomat and statesman, who served two periods as Frances' Foreign Minister. His career blossomed under the patronage of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, and he made an advantageous marriage to Louise Honorine Crozat, who brought her husband a share in the immense fortune created by her grandfather Antoine Crozat (1655-1738), one of the wealthiest merchants in France. The duc de Choiseul was also a great connoisseur and a leading patron of the new style known as gout grec (literally 'Greek taste'), or neo-classicism. The luxurious decorations of his Paris house were particularly well recorded in the miniature paintings mounted on a celebrated gold snuff box made in about 1770. This shows some pieces in the new taste, but other pieces that were presumably made a few years earlier when the curving lines of rococo were the dominant style. This armchair illustrates style in transition, still featuring the cabriole legs of the earlier style, but the frame carved with the formal guilloche decoration that was one of the dominant motifs of the new, neo-classical style, as were the swags of laurel and the rectangular tablet in the middle of the seat rail.

Descriptive line

Armchair of carved and gilded beechwood. Marked with the inventory brand for the Château de Chanteloup

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Chanteloup: Un moment de grace autour du duc de Choiseul, exh. cat., ed. Véronique Moreau, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours (2007), p. 268, fig. 1.
Eriksen, S. Early Neo-Classicism in France. London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1974, pp. 85, 335, pl. 158

Labels and date

Armchair
About 1760–70
France (Paris)
Gilded walnut; modern
upholstery
From the Château at
Chanteloup. Probably
made for the Duc de
Choiseul
Museum no. W.10-1973 [2015]
[Label text by Peter Thornton]

Armchair ('fauteuil à la reine')
French (Paris); about 1770
Gilt wood; the upholstery modern

Made for the duc de Choiseul and one part of the furnishings of the Château de Chanteloup. The inventory mark of the Château is branded under the front rail.

The duc is known to have patronised the foremost craftsmen of his day and this superb chair was no doubt made in the workship of a well-known 'menuisier' althought it bears no maker's mark.

Museum No. W.10-1973 [1980]

Materials

Walnut; Pine; Poplar; Beech

Techniques

Chair-making; Carving; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Vitruvian scrolls; Husks (motifs); Swags (design element)

Categories

Furniture; Woodwork

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.