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Armchair

Armchair

  • Place of origin:

    Madrid (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1790-1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and veneered mahogany, set with gilt-bronze mounts, the seat upholstered in horsehair

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by the Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan

  • Museum number:

    W.12-1919

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case PL3

This chair is of highly elaborate design and exceptional craftsmanship. At one time it was thought to have been made in Vienna, but recent studies have shown that it is close to furniture designed for the court in Madrid between about 1790 and 1795. Even then, new ideas spread rapidly throughout Europe and it is not surprising that very similar designs were published in Vienna in 1806 by Gottfried August Pohle.

The chair is carefully designed to show a range of different tones in the woodwork and metal mounts. The high-relief carving of the central star, and the tiny carved 'swags' of fabric inside the upper arch of the back, are in darker wood against the lighter mahogany of the rest of the chair. The outlining of the legs and arms with metal fillets, and the ribbed gilt-bronze plaques at the top of the legs and the base of the arms, echo designs found for cabinet furniture throughout Europe at the time. It is rare, though, to find such a lavish use of metal mounts on a chair.

The horsehair fabric used to upholster the seat shows an unusual, complex, damask design. The complexity of the pattern suggests that, if the chair dates to the 1790s, the upholstery is not original and may have been replaced during or after the second quarter of the nineteenth century.

Physical description

Mahogany with gilt brass mounts, the seat upholstered in horsehair. The back is of open work, with arched top, rosette in centre, and interlaced bands below. Arms supported on uprights with semi-circular bands between. Legs slightly tapering and curving outwards. Gilt brass mounts consist of borders of bead ornament and the leaves on the feet.
The seat is in an unusual 'damasked' horsehair, possibly dating from the second quarter of the nineteenth century.

Place of Origin

Madrid (probably, made)

Date

1790-1800 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved and veneered mahogany, set with gilt-bronze mounts, the seat upholstered in horsehair

Dimensions

Height: 102.5 cm, Width: 57 cm, Depth: 47.6 cm

Object history note

Bequeathed by the late Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan c/o Sir C.H. Read, British Museum, W.C.1., RP19/741
Description on acquisition: "Armchair, mahogany with gilt brass mounts, composed of open work back with arched top, rosette in the centre, and interlaced bands below. Arms supported on uprights with semi-circular bands between. Legs slightly tapering and curving outwards. Gilt brass mounts consist of borders of ball ornament and the leaves on the feet. French ; early 19th century."
The XXVth Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan, was born Adelaida Crooke y Guzman (d. 1917) to Adelaida Guzman y Caballero, XXIVth Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan (1827-1901) and Juan Bautista Crooke y Navarrot. In 1888, she married Guillermo de Osma y Scull (1853-1922), Spanish diplomat, politician and archaeologist, founder of the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan in Madrid in 1916, which brought together his collection of decorative arts and those inherited from the Condes de Oñate and Condes de Valencia de Don Juan. It is a major collection, with particular strengths in textiles, ceramics and earthenware, dating from the 15th to the 19th century.

Evidence on method of acquisition from the Registered papers
(RP 19/664)
Letter from C Hercules Read Department of British and Medieval Antiquities and Ethnography, British Museum to O. Brackett, 13 February 1919:
'Towards the end of last year, I heard from my friend Mr. J.J. Reubell in Paris that another friend, the Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan, had died, had left to this Museum certain articles, and that he, as Executor, was ready to send them over to me, as soon as conditions of transport made this possible.
As soon as I saw the list of the objects bequeathed I realized that certain of the objects were unsuitable for us, and on the other hand very suitable for your Museum. I reported in the first instance to our Board… and in the second wrote to Mr Reubell… Mr Reubell wrote at once leaving the matter in my hands. His words are "you will keep for the British Museum what you think proper, and I beg you to hand over to the Victoria and Albert all the rest, in the name of the Condesa alone"…
The items in question are, a dressing table [W.9-1919, written off in 1966], an inlaid commode [W.10-1919], a pedestal table [W.11-1919], signed by the maker [Weisweler] and a chair [W.12-1919], all of the 18th Century, and believed to be of English work. They are certainly very charming bits of furniture, and in this Col. Croft Lyons agrees.
In addition, there is a service of Wedgwood [33 pieces, 4 damaged], Circ.53-85-1919], of which I would propose to keep only a sample or two, handing over the rest to you Museum.

Memo, 14 February 1919, O. Brackett (after having seen the pieces):
'… I understood from Sir H. Read that the Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan though married to a Spaniard was English or of English extraction: that she had a varied collection of object which she has bequeathed to Institutions in Paris, London, etc according to the nationality of the objects: the furniture & Wedgwood china being bequeathed to the British Nation; as a compliment. As a matter of fact I do not consider any of the pieces of furniture to be English (Weisweler was a well-known Parisian cabinet-maker); but apart from their nationality, I told Sir H. Read that we should be glad to accept them and have arranged with Transit room to send for them on Tuesday next.
I saw the Wedgwood china, which consists of a variety of shell-shaped vessels, white with gold borders. They can be brought here on Tues: with the furniture unless Mr Rackham prefers to inspect them at the B.M. first. Sir H. Read speaking for the executors said there would not be no objection to sending them on Circulation.'

Memo signed by B. Rackham, 29 February 1919: Wedgwood ware, decorated with gilding, the shapes of the various pieces of which are adapted from various shells of shellfish. The original models were mde in the time of the first Josiah, but the date of this service would be about 1810-20. The forms are in my opinion exceedingly good adaptations from nature, but as they are already represented in the Museum I do not think the service would be of use to us unless the bequest is quite unconditional… Certainly we should not have room to exhibit the whole service.
I understand however from Mr Martin (in Mr Bailey’s absence) that specimens would be very useful to Circn if we have power to select or to accept unconditionally.'

A note in the margin from O. Rackham clarifies that this is acceptable. J.J. Reubell lived at 23 rue de Marignan, Paris and was duly notified that the V&A would be pleased to accept the bequest on 3 March 1919.

Descriptive line

Armchair in mahogany with gilt-bronze mounts, the seat upholstered in damask-pattern horsehair.

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

Bonaparte et l'Escaut: le spectaculaire développement d'Anvers à l'époque française. Catalogue of an exhibition held at MAS, Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp, 23 March - 30 June 2013, published Kontich: MAS, 2013. Cat. no. 198.

Labels and date

Europe and America 1800-1900, room 101

ARMCHAIR IN THE EMPIRE STYLE
1790-1800

For years this chair was thought to be Viennese, but recent research has shown that it is closer to furniture supplied for El Escorial, near Madria, between 1790 and 1795. The style, a new version of Neo-classicism that we now call 'Empire' style, spread throught Europe beween 1800 and 1820.

Probably Spain, Madrid; design possibly influenced by Jean-Demonsthène Dugourc
Mahogany, solid and veneered; mounts, gilded bronze; upholstery, damask-woven horsehair, possibly original

Bequeathed by the Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan [05/08/2015]
ARMCHAIR

W.12-1919

'American and European Art and Design 1800-1900'

The quirky and unarchaeological display of neoclassical elements in this chair is typical of Viennese furniture of after 1800. It may be compared with designs by Gottfried August Pohle dated 1806.

Bequeathed by the Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan [1987-2006]
ARMCHAIR IN THE EMPIRE STYLE
1790-1800

Probably Spain, Madrid; design possibly influenced by Jean-Demonsthène Dugourc; maker unknown

Mahogany, solid and veneered; mounts, gilded bronze; upholstery, damask-woven horsehair, possibly original

Museum no. W.12-1919
Bequeathed by the Condesa de Valencia de Don Juan

For years this chair was thought to be Viennese, but recent research has shown that it is closer to furniture supplied for El Escorial, near Madrid, between 1790 and 1795. The style, a new version of Neo-classicism, which we now call 'Empire' style, spread throughout Europe between 1800 and 1820. [2006]

Production Note

Since its acquisition in 1919 this chair has been identified as 'probably Viennese'. In 2003 Casto Castellanos Ruiz, Director of the Escuela de Arte et Antiguedades, Madrid, wrote to the V&A pointing out that not only is it similarity to other Madrid-made pieces and, in particular, to the furniture made for the Casita de El Principe in El Escorial between 1790 and 1795. This furniture is illustrated on p. 217 of the exhibition catalogue 'Espana entre dos siglos y la devolucion de Menorca' (Madrid, Museo Arqueologico Nacional, 2002). He also made reference to a set of sofa and four armchairs in a private collection in Madrid (discussed and illustrated in the same catalogue, pp 418-20), and pointed out that the donor of the chair to the V&A was clearly Spanish.

Materials

Mahogany; Brass; Horsehair; Gilt bronze

Techniques

Carving; Gilding; Lacquering; Joinery; Upholstery

Subjects depicted

Rosette; Leaves

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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