Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Settee

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1690-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walnut legs and beech frame; upholstery in embroidery of wool and silk, the back and sides covered in glazed wool, the cushions lined with kid skin

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Bryan Bequest

  • Museum number:

    W.15:1 to 3-1945

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 9 []

Object Type
In the 1690s upholstered settees formed part of the lavish furnishings of state rooms in great houses, which were created to display the wealth and status of the owner to visitors. They were not for day-to-day use. Often settees were supplied for the state bedrooms, along with sets of chairs to match. They were arranged around the walls of the room. The upholstery would match the hangings on the bed. This settee was probably made for Hampton Court, Herefordshire, for Thomas, Lord Coningsby (1656-1729), but we do not know which room it was for. It is unusual for the upholstery to have survived untouched.

Design & Designing
High-backed furniture was ideal for showing off expensive, brightly coloured fabrics. Unfaded fragments of the cover of this settee reveal strong red and yellow tones, contrasting with the blue braid and fringing. The settee is in the form of the 1690s, with a shaped top rail, outward-curving wings and scrolled arms.

Materials & Making
The cover is decorated with cross-stitch embroidery with a floral pattern imitating damask, a woven fabric. The legs and stretchers between them are carved and turned walnut, ebonised (painted black to look like ebony), with traces of gold stencilling.

Physical description

The settee has a two seat back, with top covers of canvas work embroidery, two cushions, and exposed walnut legs. The legs and stretchers are carved and turned, and ebonised, with traces of gold stencilling. The three front legs are in the form of fluted columns with gadrooned cappings, connected by curving cross-stretchers, which have finials at the crossings. The back legs are turned. The upholstery is original and has never been removed, apart from the outside back cover. It is of cross-stitch canvaswork with a floral pattern imitating damask, in shades of red and brown wool on a background of yellow silk, now much faded. The outside back and sides of the settee are covered in plain yellow woven wool, called harrateen. The settee is decorated with cream and blue braid in linen and silk, and blue floss silk bell fringes, much worn and faded.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1690-1700 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Walnut legs and beech frame; upholstery in embroidery of wool and silk, the back and sides covered in glazed wool, the cushions lined with kid skin

Dimensions

Height: 137.8 cm, Width: 157.5 cm, Depth: 95 cm

Object history note

This settee was almost certainly made for Thomas, Lord Coningsby (1656-1729) in the late 1690s for his house, Hampton Court, Leominster, Herefordshire, which he remodelled at that time. Coningsby's career was then at it's height: he fought alongside King William III at the Battle of the Boyne and was rewarded with an Irish Peerage in 1692. His second marriage, in 1698, was to the daughter of the Earl of Ranelagh. No bill for the settee has been found. The legs match a set of chairs and a settee in crimson silk damask, which were supplied en suite with a state bed, now at Het Loo, The Netherlands. The upholstery of the V&A settee, however, is canvaswork embroidery in red and brown wool and stamped yellow wool. The room for which it was supplied has not yet been identified as the house was remodelled in the 1790s and again in the 1830s. The 17th century furnishings remained in the house until 1925. The settee was found in attic by subsequent owners of the house in about 1910 and sold at the house sale in 1925. It was bought by the V&A from Frank Partridge and Sons Ltd in 1945 having passed through the ownership of Colonel Mulliner, a collector of English furniture, and Lady Baillie. The state bed from Lord Coningsby's bedroom is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Notes from R.P. 45/1192 & 1227

12/9/45 memo, Ashton to Edwards
requests authority to purchase the settee. "It is a double-chair settee with high back and is entirely upholstered in original needlework. Illustrated pl.4 Vol 3 of Dict. Of English Furniture and came from Hampton Court, Leominster, a celebrated repository of 17th century furniture. Few exist with original coverings and this is a fine example. It was recently sold by Lady Boullie who had acquired it from Col. Mulliner (collector & dealer). Ashton says Partridges are unaware of its importance and the price of £350 is moderate (the Hampton Court settee of the same date was sold to the late Duchess of Rosbury for £1500). He proposes to purchase it from the Bryan Bequest Fund.

Partridge invoice of 17 Sept. 1945
Lists as "William & Mary walnut settee, the high back, seat and loose cushion covered in needlework of cream ground with all-over formal design in red. On shaped legs joined by curved stretchers. -- £350."

Historical significance: In form the settee is a typical example of the high-backed upholstered seat furniture fashionable in the 1690's. The embroidered covers are unusual; silk damask or cut velvet were more often used. The upholstery has great historical value as it has never been removed from the settee, apart from the outside back cover of stamped yellow wool. It is exceptionally rare to find upholstery from 1690 still surviving.

Historical context note

In the 1690s upholstered settees formed part of the lavish furnishings of the state rooms of a great house, which were created to demonstrate the wealth and status of the owner. Often, settees were supplied with sets of chairs ensuite, and were upholstered to match a state bed. Their high backs were ideal for showing off expensive fabrics, which were usually brightly coloured. Fragments of the embroidered covers which have not been exposed to the light reveal the strong tones of the original red and yellow thread, which would have contrasted with the blue of the braid and fringing. This settee was almost certainly commissioned by Baron Coningsby when he remodelled and refurnished his house in the 1690s. However, it is not known for which room it was intended or whether there were any chairs supplied ensuite. The legs of the settee match those of the settee and chairs in the King's bedroom, which were covered in crimson silk damask to match the bed. The King's bedroom was furnished in preparation for a possible visit by William III; there is no evidence that he actually visited the house. The V&A settee could have been supplied for another bedroom or an anti-chamber to a bedroom.

Descriptive line

Hampton Court settee, embroidered upholstery, English, 1690's

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

Edwards, Ralph. The Dictionary of English Furniture from the Middles Ages to the Late Georgian Period. Revised Ed. (London, 1954). Vol. III P. 78, Pl. III p. 74.
Furniture of the XVII & XVIII centuries; Furniture at Hampton Court, Near Leominster - 1. Country Life, Nov. 18th, 1911 vol. no. pp.750-753.
Derek Balfour, Don't Sit Down! The Investigation and Conservation of an Upholstered Seventeenth Century Settee, V&A Conservation Journal, October 1999, No. 33, pp. 14-19.
.Heather Porter, 'The History of Cushions and the Use of Feathers in Upholstery 1580-1800', in Ed. Karin Lohm, The Forgotten History – Upholstery Conservation. Linköping: University of Linköping, 2011. Papers of symposium held in Vadstena, Sweden in 2005, pp. 81-105, illus. p. 90.

Labels and date

Settee: about 1690, Walnut, upholstered in cross-stitch embroidery trimmed with galloon and fringed. From Hampton Court, Leominster. Bought with funds from the Bryan Bequest. Museum No. W.15-1945. John Hardy [1976]
SETTEE
ENGLISH; about 1690
Carved and turned walnut upholstered in cross-stitch needlework trimmed with galloon and fringed.

Bought with the funds of the Bryan Bequest.

The settee came from Hampton Court, Leominster, for which it was probably acquired by Thomas Coningsby, later Earl of Conynsby, an imperious and choleric gentleman of ancient family, who was one of the last of the nobility to employ a bard and jester. [pre October 2000]

Materials

Walnut; Wool; Silk

Techniques

Carving; Embroidery

Categories

Furniture; Household objects; British Galleries; Woodwork

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.