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A design for an armchair from; a Miscellaneous Collection of Original Designs, made, and for the most part executed, during an extensive Practice of many years in the first line of his Profession, by John Linnell, Upholserer Carver & Cabinet Maker. Selected from his Portfolios at his Decease, by C. H. Tatham Architect. AD 1800.

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    late 18th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Linnell, John, born 1729 - died 1796 (designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    pencil, pen and yellow and blue watercolour

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case W, shelf 8, box C2

This design for an armchair by John Linnell demonstrates his use of neoclassical forms such as the straight, cylindrical legs which terminate at the chair seat with patera motifs (round or oval disks bearing an ornamental design). The neoclassical style became popular during the second half of the 18th century, inspired by the art and architecture of classical Greece and Rome. In this design, Linnell counteracts the formal neoclassical style with features such as curved armrest supports and energetic depictions of natural ornamentation. The blue patterned watercolour indicates that this chair would be upholstered in a luxurious material such as blue damask while the yellow watercolour on the chair frame and carving indicates that the wooden elements of the chair would be gilded.

The pencil annotations around the design such as ‘omit the festoon’ demonstrate that this was a working drawing and could have been designed for a specific patron or to match a suite of furniture. Opulent furniture such as this would have been used within the important state rooms of the interior, such as drawing rooms, where they could be seen and enjoyed by visitors.

Physical description

A design for an armchair in the neoclassical style. The chair consists of a circular back, the frame is decorated with natural ornamentation. The front of the chair seat curves inwards and the chair legs are circular and decorated with acanthus leaves. Festoons of natural ornament pierce the chair seat frame and hang near the top of the chair legs. The upholstery of the design is decorated with patterned blue watercolour and the woodwork is coloured with a yellow watercolour. One of a set of designs for furniture, including chairs and state beds, interior decoration, including pier glasses, and architectural fittings including chimney pieces and doors. In a volume.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


late 18th century (made)


Linnell, John, born 1729 - died 1796 (designers)

Materials and Techniques

pencil, pen and yellow and blue watercolour

Marks and inscriptions


'omit the festoon'


Height: 14.7 cm volume, Width: 12.5 cm volume

Object history note

John Linnell (1729-1796) was the son of the furniture maker William Linnell (ca. 1703-1763) and gained his design education from the St Martin’s Lane Academy. The influence that the St. Martin’s Lane Academy had upon Linnell’s designs are evident through his adoption of rococo forms and motifs, largely inspired by the stylistic precedents emerging from France during this period. During his lifetime John Linnell produced high quality furniture, which rivalled that of other leading furniture makers such as Thomas Chippendale, John Cobb and William Ince and John Mayhew. His later years saw his incorporation of the newly fashionable neoclassical style within his designs which was becoming popular in the latter half of the 18th century.
Selections from his portfolios were made, after his death, by C.H. Tatham, and arranged in scrapbooks, possibly with the intention of publishing them. Two of the volumes were acquired by the Museum in 1911. (See E. 3466-3739--1911, no longer in volumes, but mounted separately.) The album had previously belonged to Tatham's daughter Julia, the wife of George Richmond. (Ward-Jackson, P. English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century, V&A; London (1958) p54-55).

Descriptive line

Design for an armchair in pencil, pen, blue and yellow watercolour from a volume of designs for furniture, interior decoration and architectural fittings, by John Linnell, Great Britain, late 18th century

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

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1929, London: Board of Education, 1930.


Paper (fiber product); Ink; Wash; Watercolour



Subjects depicted

Subject; Acanthus; Husk; Upholstery; Patera; Festoon


Drawings; Furniture; Designs


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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