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Settee

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1845 -60 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Beech and walnut, upholstered in rayon

  • Museum number:

    W.111-1978

  • Gallery location:

    On display at Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire

This small settee is typical of the comfortable domestic furntiure which proliferated in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Spiral metal springs had first been used at the very end of the eighteenth century for certain specialist pieces of furniture such as chamber horses, a form of seat which allowed indoor excercise, but it was only in the 1830s that they were used for ordinary domestic seating. They were immediately popular and by 1850 almost every drawing-room chair or settee was sprung. The frame of this settee is now ebonised but was probably originally finished to imitate rosewood.

Physical description

Low sofa of carved beech and walnut, now ebonised but possibly originally finished in imitation of rosewood, the oval back and D-shaped seat, with serpentine front edge upholstered in a rayone fabric woven with an overall pattern of sprigs of flowers.

The sofa is raised on four legs, the front two of walnut, carved in cabriole form with out-curling scrolled feet, the back two of beech, of rounded rectangular plan, splayed and serpentine in elevation. All four legs are raised on castors with brass brackets and wheels of white stoneware. The shaped seat rails are tenoned into blocks at the top of the legs, now covered by the upholstery. Only on the front rail is any wood visible, a narrow moulded edge which is run in a section of walnut forming the lipping to the rail, which is of beech, as are all the other rails. Small spandrel brackets of walnut are fitted between the top angles of the front legs and the underside of the seat rails. The bracket on the right end of the front rail is missing, as is the scrolled spandrel on the right side rail. The scrolled spandrel on the left rail is damaged, with a small section missing. The seat is reinforced underneath with a central cross-brace of circular section, the ends upturned and embedded in the underside of the front and back seat rails. There are no apparent fixings to this cross-brace.

The stiles of the back are set inward of the back legs, tenoned down into the back seat rail. The curved upper and lower rails of the back are tenoned into the stiles, possibly with loose tenons. The centre of the lower rail of the back is supported on a low, shaped strut, tenoned between the lower rail and the back seat rail. The lower part of the back stiles extend to width of approximately 20 cm just above the seat, carved with scrolled edges and a reeded ground. The low, splayed arms are tenoned into these enlarged sectiosn and down into the side seat rails about half way back and are carved with pierced scrolls flowing from the design on the back stiles.The centre of the back top rail is carved with a symmetrical cresting of C-scrolls, foliage and a lily-like flower.

The back is deeply stuffed but without a stitched edge. The structural upholstery might be original or it may originally have been buttoned. The sprung seat is supported on an open mesh of webbing of jute and cotton in a black and white twill weave, without a base-cloth. The edges of the seat are stitched. The rayon covering and rayon gimp date from after 1930.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

ca. 1845 -60 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Beech and walnut, upholstered in rayon

Marks and inscriptions

23
Printed in white on a bright red paper label stuck behind the central strut supporting the back frame

Dimensions

Height: 95.5 cm, Width: 122 cm over splayed arms, Depth: 71 cm, Height: 37 cm to front stitched edge, rising to 42 cm at back

Object history note

Bought from Mrs Davidson How, 36 Crown Lane Gardens, Crown Lane, Streatham, London SW16 3HZ. RF 78/640

Descriptive line

Settee of ebonised beech and walnut, with oval back and shaped seat, the upholstery re-covered in rayon

Materials

Beech; Walnut; Rayon; Iron; Jute; Cotton

Techniques

Joinery; Carving; Upholstery

Subjects depicted

Scrolls

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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