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  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Mahogany, with carved decoration; silk upholstery

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This armchair and its matching chairs (W.5&A-1974) are very typical of the mass-produced furniture which was purchased by middle-class consumers in the second half of the 19th century. It is small in scale and would have been bought for a drawing-room or personal sitting-room where women’s taste dominated, perhaps with a matching sofa or chaise-longue. The donor of the pieces said that it had been owned by the singer Adelina Patti (1843-1919) and that seems quite possible. Large-scale furnishing firms such as W. Smee & Son Ltd of Finsbury Pavement, London, manufactured such suites by the thousand. These pieces are not stamped or labelled with a name but are stamped with stock number that may, in due course, lead to an identification of the maker.

Physical description

The armchair, which is en suite with the chairs W.5&A-1974, is smaller and broader than those chairs but is otherwise of similar design. The armchair is of mahogany and the design combines motifs fashionable under both Louis XV and Louis XVI, and also shows the influence of Chippendale. There are thin cabriole legs at the front, and raked, rectangular-sectioned rear legs. The legs are carved on the knees with a recessed panel with a formal, fan-headed motif against a punched ground, the carving not raised but cut into the surface. The centre of the front seat rail is similarly carved with a recessed panel with crossed fronds of leaves. The back is waisted, with a central, down-curved cross-rail forming an upper oval, supported on a short, central, pierced splat above a pierced roundel carved with an urn. The top part of the upper oval is carved as serpentine top rail with a central, pierced, rococo cartouche. The seat, which is sprung, is upholstered in pinky red plain silk, outlined on the lower edge with the same pink silk gimp as is used on the chairs (though there with a patterned silk). The upper part of the back is upholstered.

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)


ca. 1880 (made)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Mahogany, with carved decoration; silk upholstery

Marks and inscriptions

On underside of seat rail. Probably a stock mark.

On underside of seat rail. Possibly an individual craftsmen's mark.


Height: 33 in, Width: 21 in, Depth: 19.5 in, Height: 10.5 in

Object history note

Bequeathed to the Museum by Mme Yvonne de la Cruz-Frölich, Sunningdale (See Registered Files 62/3098 on Nominal File MA/1/L8), who had first offered pieces to the Museum in 1962. On her death a group of furniture was bequeathed (Museum numbers W.2 to W.5-1974). In the correspondence on the original file, Peter Thornton noted in a memor dated 1/12/68 that the chairs 'Belonged to Patti the singer. c. 1845' This was presumably told to him by Mme Yvonne de la Cruz-Frölich. As her husband was a singer, it is possible that the history is correct, but as Adeline Patti was only born in 1843, it suggests a much later date for the chairs than 1845. In 1878 she acquired a country house in Wales, Craig-y-Nos ('The Rock of Nights') in the Brecon area and it is possible that the chairs were acquired for that house, which she lived in until her death in 1919, although they could have been acquired for another of her houses.

The design of the chairs is similar to many produced by the large furniture manufacturers in London in the middle of the 19th century. W. Smee & Son Litd, of Finsbury Pavement, published somewhat similar designs in their Designs for Furniture in 1850 (see Edward Joy, Pictorial Dictionary of British 19th Century Furniture Design, published in Woodbridge by the Antique Collectors Club in 1977; similar designs are shown on pp. 195, 221-223). Although such designs appeared in the 1850s, the style remained current until much later in the century.

Further research may be able to establish whether W. Smee & Son used stock numbers such as are found on the underside of these chairs. Other large-scale furniture manufacturers produced similar designs and it is not at present possible to tell who made this set.

Historical context note

Suites of such small, delicate chairs were made in several combinations (with or without settees) for use in drawing-rooms and boudoirs in particular, where their delicacy was thought suitable for rooms which were primarilly used by women.

Descriptive line

Low armchair of mahogany, in 'Louis' style, with shallow carving, the seat and back panel upholstered in red silk, from a set with two chairs (W.5&A-1974). The front legs are of cabriole form, the pierced central splat with an oval panel of upholstery.


Mahogany; Silk


Chair-making; Upholstery; Carving




Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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