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Armchair

Armchair

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1787-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved mahogany, inlaid with satinwood, the seat upholstered in modern silk

  • Museum number:

    1458-1904

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This chair pattern, with a heart-shaped back incorporating the Prince of Wales feathers, was very popular in the late 1780s and 1790s, and was probably manufactured by several different firms. The firm of Gillow & Company, of Lancaster and London, were making chairs of this type, which they called ‘Drapery and feather back’, by 1788. The design may have been suggested by the fact that, in 1787, the Prince of Wales took power as Regent when his father, George III, suffered a temporary bout of insanity as a result of the illness porphyria. A design for this kind of chair back is also painted on a pattern board in the Museum that was used to show different ways of decorating such a chair (Museum no. W.11-1993) and another version of the design is also in the Museum's collection (Museum no. 1458-1904). It was clearly popular because another version, without the drapery, was published in another pattern book as late as 1802.

Physical description

An open armchair with oval, pierced back, carved with the Prince of Wales' feathers and with drapery. The seat is rounded at the back and serpentine on the front edge. Both the seat rail and the frame of the back are fluted. The legs are turned and tapering, decorated above baluster-turned feet with fluting, and a carved collar at the top of each front leg, showing guilloche below upright leaf motif. The block above each front leg is inlaid with an oval paterae of segments of satinwood. The back legs, heavily raked, are fluted and turned as the front legs but are not carved.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

ca. 1787-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved mahogany, inlaid with satinwood, the seat upholstered in modern silk

Dimensions

Height: 98 cm, Width: 61 cm

Object history note

It seems likely that this design originated in 1788, when the Prince of Wales was empowered by parliament to act as Regent during a period when George III was suffering insanity as a result of the illness porhyria (in fact the king recovered and there was no Regency until 1811). The design seems to have been first published in 1788 in the first edition of Hepplewhite's The Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Guide, on plate 8. A similar design, but within a heart-shaped back, had been designed in 1787 by the firm of Gillows of Lancaster and London, for whom the design became very popular (see Susan Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840, Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 2008, pp. 160-163). An armchair in that version of that design is in the V&A Collection (Museum No. 27-162). A pattern board showing two variants for a painted chair-back of this pattern (also popular with Gillows' customers) is Museum No. W11-1993.

Museum negative 74591 shows this on display in Gallery 40 in 1936 as part of a display of Georgian furniture.

Descriptive line

Armchair of mahogany, with small inlays of satinwood, the oval back carved with swags of drapery and the Prince of Wales's feathers, the seat upholstered.

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

Benn, H.P and Shapland, H.P., The Nation's Treasures. Measured Drawings of Fine Old Furniture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & co. Ld and Benn Brothers Ltd., 1910, p. 23, pl. 45.
Tomlin, Maurice, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture (London: HMSO for the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1972), cat. no. P/4, p. 127.

Production Note

It seems likely that this design originated in about 1788, when the Prince of Wales was empowered by parliament to act as Regent during a period when George III was suffering insanity as a result of the illness porhyria (in fact the king recovered and the Prince of Wales did not become Regent until 1811). His work on Carlton House had started in 1783 and by 1786 was partially habitable. The Prince's elegant and extravagant designs made him a style leader. The design seems to have been first published in 1788 in the first edition of Hepplewhite's The Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Guide, on plate 8. A similar design, but within a heart-shaped back, was designed in 1787 by the firm of Gillows of Lancaster and London, for whom the design became very popular (see Susan Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840, Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 2008, pp. 160-163). An armchair in that version of that design is in the V&A Collection (Museum No. 27-162). A pattern board showing two variants for a painted chair-back of this pattern (also popular with Gillows' customers) is Museum No. W11-1993.

Materials

Mahogany; Satinwood

Techniques

Chair-making; Carving; Turning; Inlay

Subjects depicted

Prince of Wales' feathers

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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