Armchair

1764-1765 (made), after 1765 (restored)
Armchair thumbnail 1
Armchair thumbnail 2
+12
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 118, The Wolfson Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This chair was originally part of a set of eight armchairs and four sofas commissioned for the grandest room for entertaining in a great London house. As the most important seating furniture in the house, it was designed by the architect responsible for the alterations and decoration of the house, Robert Adam (1728-1792). The chair's legs have castors (small wheels), thus it could easily be moved into the required place for group conversation.

Design & Designing
Adam's watercolour design for one of the sofas is dated 1764 and preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum, London. The design - inscribed 'Sopha chairs for the Salon' - cost Sir Lawrence Dundas £5. It is the only example to survive of an Adam design on paper that was executed by Chippendale.

Materials & Making
The supplier, Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), charged œ20 for each chair. His bill described the chairs as 'exceedingly Richly Carv'd in the Antick manner and Gilt in oil Gold Stuff'd and cover'd with your own Damask and strong Castors on the feet'. Dundas, who patronised both Chippendale and Adam on a number of occasions, provided the silk damask fabric for the top covers. The use of oil gold is curious. It was cheaper than water gilding, because it could not take burnishing. But it provided a more consistent appearance, since it did not result in contrasting matt and burnished areas, so characteristic of water gilding.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Armchair
  • Box
Materials and Techniques
Gilded beechwood and walnut, with modern scarlet damask upholstery
Brief Description
Armchair designed by Robert Adam for Sir Lawrence Dundas, made by Thomas Chippendale, gilded beechwood and walnut, upholstery not original, London, Britain, 1764-65.
Physical Description
Armchair of gilded beechwood and walnut; scarlet damask upholstery modern.



The chair is inscribed with a chisel on the front rail 'VII' indicating that it is number seven from a set of eight armchairs and four sofas for the Great Room at 19 Arlington Street.
Dimensions
  • Height: 106cm
  • Width: 77cm
  • Depth: 77cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'VII' (The chair is inscribed with a chisel on the front rail.; inscribed)
Gallery Label
  • ARMCHAIR ENGLISH; about 1765 Gilded beechwood Designed by Robert Adam for the 'salon' of Sir Lawrence Dundas' house at 19, Arlington Street, London. One of '8 large Arm Chairs exeeding richly carved in the Antick manner and gilt in oil Gold stuffed and covr'd with your own damask and strong Castors on the feet' for which Thomas Chippendale charged £160 in July 1765.(pre October 2000)
  • 4. Armchair Britain (London); 1765 Designed by Robert Adam (1728-92) and made by Thomas Chippendale (1718- 79) for the 'Great Room' of the London house of Sir Lawrence Dundas (1710?-81) at 19 Arlington Street, London Gilded beech and walnut; modern upholstery; from a set of eight chairs and four sofas. This chair is part of the only known set of furniture made by Chippendale to Adam's design (the design is in Sir John Soane's Museum, London). Chippendale usually worked to his own designs.(1996)
Object history
Commissioned by Sir Lawrence Dundas, 1st Baronet.



Sold Christie's 26 April 1934, lot .., from the collection of the Marquess of Zetland. The set was purchased by the collector Ronal Tree and later dispersed.

Purchased January 1937 from Messrs Moss Harris & Sons, 44 New Oxford Street, London WC1 for £100 (Nominal File MA/1/H857, Harris M. Sons). At the time the Museum was planning to show its best Adam furniture under the newly acquired ceiling from the Adelphi (W.43-1936), and rightly considered that this would be a very significant addition to that group of objects.
Historical context
In the early days of Neo-classicism the style was often combined with earlier styles. While the decoration of this chair is Neo-classical, its overall form has the curved shapes of the earlier Rococo style, combined with a back taken from furniture in the Palladian style.



Sir Lawrence Dundas was the son of an Edinburgh woollen-draper. Described by his contemporary, the writer James Boswell as a 'shrewd man of the world', Dundas made a fortune as merchant contractor to the army. He employed Robert Adam to redecorate the interiors of his London house in Arlington Street, and his country house, Moor Park in Hertfordshire. Other leading London furniture makers supplied furniture for these interiors.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
This chair was originally part of a set of eight armchairs and four sofas commissioned for the grandest room for entertaining in a great London house. As the most important seating furniture in the house, it was designed by the architect responsible for the alterations and decoration of the house, Robert Adam (1728-1792). The chair's legs have castors (small wheels), thus it could easily be moved into the required place for group conversation.

Design & Designing
Adam's watercolour design for one of the sofas is dated 1764 and preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum, London. The design - inscribed 'Sopha chairs for the Salon' - cost Sir Lawrence Dundas £5. It is the only example to survive of an Adam design on paper that was executed by Chippendale.

Materials & Making
The supplier, Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), charged œ20 for each chair. His bill described the chairs as 'exceedingly Richly Carv'd in the Antick manner and Gilt in oil Gold Stuff'd and cover'd with your own Damask and strong Castors on the feet'. Dundas, who patronised both Chippendale and Adam on a number of occasions, provided the silk damask fabric for the top covers. The use of oil gold is curious. It was cheaper than water gilding, because it could not take burnishing. But it provided a more consistent appearance, since it did not result in contrasting matt and burnished areas, so characteristic of water gilding.
Bibliographic References
  • Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
  • Bloton, T., The Architecture of Robert Adam (London. 1922), vol. II, pp. 291, 293, 299.
  • Tomlin, Maurice, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture (London: HMSO, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1972) cat. no. A/1, pp. 2-3.
Collection
Accession Number
W.1-1937

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record createdJune 18, 1999
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