Armchair

1700-1725 (made), after 1735 (upholstered)
Armchair thumbnail 1
Armchair thumbnail 2
+4
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This armchair is carved in the style fashionable in France in the first half of the 18th century. However, the use of stretchers, which interrupt the curved outline of the legs, suggests that it was perhaps not made in Paris.

The 18th-century needlework on the seat and back was evidently designed to cover a chair, for it follows the convention that human figures should be represented only on the chair-back, while animals or birds could be shown on the seat. The back shows the New Testament scene of Christ meeting the woman of Samaria. However, these covers were clearly made for a larger chair, and have been cut down to fit this one, probably in the late 19th century. The chair also has a confection of old pieces of webbing under the seat, perhaps added at the same time to lend an appearance of antiquity to the upholstery.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Walnut and beech, carved, with needlework and damask
Brief Description
Armchair of carved and polished walnut (probably originally gilded), with upholstery in needlework on canvas in silk and wool, the back lined with red silk damask. The shallow cabriole legs above hoof feet are joined by a curvilinear x-form stretcher. The tall back, with arched top, is upholstered with embroidery showing Christ at the well with the Woman of Samaria. The seat embroidery shows three birds. The upholstery, although using materials that are contemporary with the frame, was probably done shortly before the chair was acquired by the Museum.
Physical Description
Armchair of carved and polished walnut (probably originally gilded), with upholstery in needlework on canvas in silk and wool, the back lined with red silk damask. The shallow cabriole legs above hoof feet are joined by a curvilinear x-form stretcher. The tall back, with arched top, is upholstered with embroidery showing Christ at the well with the Woman of Samaria. The seat embroidery shows three birds. Although contemporary with the frame of the chair, the upholstery was probably added shortly before the chair was acquired by the Museum.
Dimensions
  • Height: 110cm
  • Maximum, across arm ends width: 69cm
  • At front feet width: 68.5cm
  • At front of seat width: 66cm
  • Of chair back width: 60cm
  • Maximum, from top of chair back to front of arms depth: 71.5cm
  • Of seat depth: 56cm
  • Of seat (upholstery) height: 46cm
  • Of seat rail, to top of ovolo moulding height: 35.3cm
  • Height of seat back height: 63.5cm
Style
Gallery Label
[Label text 1971, by Peter Thornton] Armchair French, 1720s Carved walnut; covered with contemporary needlework This early example, with its braced cabriole legs, has not yet acquired the accomodating forms of the typical Louis XV 'fauteuil'.
Object history
V&A Registry, Harrods nominal file, MA/1/H926, 14/3515M, purchase paper



H. Clifford Smith to Mr Strange, 14/7/1914

This Louis XIV walnut arm chair is, as far as its woodwork is concerned, a well-designed and decorated example of a type at present unrepresented in the collection. The framework, apart from its fine needlework cover, is of interest as showing the influence of Continental work on contemporary English furniture.



P. S. Trendell, 14/7/1914

The needlework panels on this chair represent (on the back) Christ and the woman of Samaria at the well, and (on the seat) a rococo compartment containing flowering trees, and birds. They are choice examples of 'petit point' - possibly English work, dating from the early part of the 18th century. The condition is particularly good of the back panel, the seat is more worn; there are only slight signs of restoration. I estimate the value of the two panels between £35 and £40. [Marginal note: 'Back - £20-£25 / Seat - abt. £15.'] This kind of needlework designed for upholstery is much sought after by students and the prices are rapidly increasing.



E. F. Strange to Director, n.d. [14/07/1914]

I recommend the purchase of this chair, which you have seen, at £65. The sum available for this Dept. is £365.

The chair fills a gap in the collection &, judging from frequent enquiries for work of this kind, will be of considerable practicable value to students. The explanation of its ‘English’ suggestion is doubtless due to the fact that so many French makers of needlework settled in this country after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes & established their own style here. This makes the chair all the more valuable s indicating the sources of a style afterwards associated with this country.



Purchase for £65:0:0 sanctioned, Cecil Smith, 14.vii.14.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This armchair is carved in the style fashionable in France in the first half of the 18th century. However, the use of stretchers, which interrupt the curved outline of the legs, suggests that it was perhaps not made in Paris.



The 18th-century needlework on the seat and back was evidently designed to cover a chair, for it follows the convention that human figures should be represented only on the chair-back, while animals or birds could be shown on the seat. The back shows the New Testament scene of Christ meeting the woman of Samaria. However, these covers were clearly made for a larger chair, and have been cut down to fit this one, probably in the late 19th century. The chair also has a confection of old pieces of webbing under the seat, perhaps added at the same time to lend an appearance of antiquity to the upholstery.
Collection
Accession Number
W.55-1914

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record createdDecember 1, 2006
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