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Armchair
  • Armchair
    Svensson, Carl Petter, born 1835 - died 1911
  • Enlarge image

Armchair

  • Place of origin:

    Stockholm (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1877-1885 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Svensson, Carl Petter, born 1835 - died 1911 (maker)
    Svensson, Carl Petter, born 1835 - died 1911 (retailer)
    Isaeus, Magnus, born 1841 - died 1890 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Veneered in rosewood, with engraved pewter inlay, the cross-banded fillets veneered in tulipwood, the carving in solid rosewood and walnut; removeable pad seat and back panel with modern upholstery in cotton damask

  • Museum number:

    W.13-1989

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Chairs with an X-shaped frame have a long history. Illustrations survive of ancient Greek and Roman examples. Medieval manuscripts often show chairs with this kind of frame and they have continued to be made since that time. Such chairs were often formal, even throne-like, and this example is certainly made more for show than use. The way that the back panel attaches to the seat is weak and would not stand up to regular wear, though markings under the seat make it clear that this was one of a set of at least eight chairs. Carl Svensson, who put his mark under the seat, described himself as ‘Upholsterer to the Royal court’. The chair may have been designed and made in his workshops or he may have bought it in for supply to a client. Such a practice was well established by the 19th century. The engraved pewter inlay is an unusual and elegant decorative detail.

Physical description

An x-framed armchair, of solid walnut, and rosewood veneered on oak and beech, with ebonised mouldings and inlay of engraved and punched pewter; the circular back panel, seat and arm pads are upholstered in damask (not original), probably of a rayon/cotton mix. The x-frame is set on the crossing of the front with a carved mask in solid rosewood and the ends of the arms are set with carved lion masks in solid walnut. Originally, the lions held metal ring handles in their mouths but these are now missing and both lions show damage to the jaws.

Place of Origin

Stockholm (probably, made)

Date

1877-1885 (made)

Artist/maker

Svensson, Carl Petter, born 1835 - died 1911 (maker)
Svensson, Carl Petter, born 1835 - died 1911 (retailer)
Isaeus, Magnus, born 1841 - died 1890 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Veneered in rosewood, with engraved pewter inlay, the cross-banded fillets veneered in tulipwood, the carving in solid rosewood and walnut; removeable pad seat and back panel with modern upholstery in cotton damask

Marks and inscriptions

Carl P. Svensson
Kongl Hof-tapets[illegible -should be 'erare']
STOCKHOLM
11 Brunkebergstorg 11
[illeg. word] [symbol of triangle] [illeg. word]
[illeg. word - should be Finare], Snickeri-och [illeg. word - should be Tapetserarearbeten]]
The stamp should read:
CARL P. SVENSSON
Royal and Court upholsterer
STOCKHOLM
11 Brunkebergstorg 11
[line illegible]
Finer Joinery and Upholstery
Retailer's identification and mark of possible maker. Text in Swedish; Printed, upper and lower case as typed. Stamped twice on front frame under seat. The address would have been considered a good one in nineteenth-century Stockholm.

incised 'VIIII' on front seat rail
indicates number within set

BREVETE
SGC[reversed]G
Patented
SGC[reversed]G
With accent on last E
Stamped on one tang on each castor. This suggest that the castors may have been a French patent. The Swedish term would be 'patent'.

Dimensions

Height: 98 cm, Width: 62 cm, Depth: 46 cm

Object history note

One of a suite of 14 chairs commissioned by Lars Olsson Smith (1836-1913) for Bolinder House, Stockholm. The house was named after Jean Bolinder (1813-1899), a founder of the Bolinder Engineering Company (a forerunner of the modern firm Volvo). He had commissioned the architect and Professor of the Royal Swedish Academy, Helgo Zettervall (1831-1907) to build him house. It was designed in a Renaissance Revival Style and built between 1874 and 1877. Much of the ornament was designed so that it could be manufactured in Bolinder's cast-iron manufactory. The house overlooked the royal palace and stood next door to the recently completed, and much celebrated, Grand Hotel, Stockholm.

Smith had made his fortune from the production of vodka, creating the brand Absolut, and becoming known as the 'King of Vodka'. The interiors were decorated under the supervision of the Principal of the Academy of Art, George van Rosen (1843-1923) and included rooms with Pompeiian decoration and rooms with rich colours and gilding. It is not clear how he occupied the house or for how long, but by 1889, when it was sold to the Grand Hotel next door, it was in three apartments. Lars Olsson Smith had occupied the first floor rooms of parade before the sale and a photograph of the suite of chairs in a large, coved interior is known. Some photographs of the interior can be seen in Elaine Denby's Grand Hotels: Reality and Illusion. An architectural and social history (London, 1998), pp. 104-5.

It is possible that the suite was made to designs by the architect Magnus Isaeus (1841-1890) who designed another suite of ivory- and pietre dure-inlaid furniture for Smith's dining-room at Bolinder House. One of the chairs from this set is illustrated in A Decorative Swedish Arts Legacy 1700-1960, in the collection of the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum/Scala Books, 1998, p. 55). The chair combines Italianate renaissance ornament with inlay that included figures in the traditional dress of the Skåne region of southern Sweden (Smith's birthplace and the site of his vodka distilleries). That chair was given to the museum in 1891, suggesting that 1889 may have been the date on which he left his apartment in Bollinder House.

A black and white photograph of L.O. Smith's drawing-room showing 13 of the suite exists. That appears to show a silk damask upholstery with a single large button in the middle of the back and seat of each chair, and a fringe around each seat with large, well articulated tassels, of silk around a wooden core. More recent photographs of surviving chairs (see below) shows them in a variety of upholstery, usually leather.

It is not known when the suite was dispersed, although the sale of the house in 1889 is a possible date.

The V&A chair was purchased from H. Blairman & Sons in 1989 (RF 89/678). He purchased it from the dealer David Pickup in Burford, Oxfordshire, but no earlier provenance is known.

Since that date, further examples from the set have appeared on the art market. Two chairs were offered for sale by Sotheby's, London, 18 November 2008, lot 224, and a further pair offered by Christie's, London, 10 September 2013, lot 59. A single chair was offered for sale by Bonham's, London, 9 July 2015, lot 215. Others have appeared in private collections. Most of these retain the iron rings that originally hung from the mouths of the lion handrests, and it would be possible to re-cast rings for the V&A chair from one of these.

Descriptive line

An x-framed armchair in carved walnut, veneered tulipwood and veneered rosewood inlaid with engraved pewter, supplied and possibly made by Carl P. Svensson, Stockholm.; Swedish ?, ca. 1880, supplier Svensson, Stockholm

Labels and date

ARM-CHAIR
Designer unknown
Possibly made in the workshops of Carl P. Svensson
Possibly SWEDISH; 1873-1883
Various woods with pewter inlay

This elaborate Renaissance Revival piece bears the stencil of Svensson which describes him as 'Upholsterer to the Royal Court' at the fashionable Stockholm address which he had from 1873-1883. The design of the chair is unusual for Sweden at this period, and it is possible that Svensson merely imported from Germany for sale in Stockholm. [pre October 2000]
This elaborate piece of Renaissance Revival furniture is the first example of Swedish furniture of the later nineteenth centry that we have acquired. Carl P. Svennson, whose stencil this chair bears, had a retail shop in Stockholm and may have been a cabinet-maker. Research on our behalf is being carried out in Sweden to attempt to establish who might have designed this interesting chair. []

Production Note

Materials

Walnut; Pewter; Oak; Beech; Cotton damask

Techniques

Carving; Inlay; Veneering

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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