Chairs And Sofas Part 2

The chair shown (Figure 70) is another early specimen, and though it looks decidedly uncomfortable, it was not an uncommon type of chair about the middle of the seventeenth century. The name " wainscot" was often applied to such chairs, since the panelled back was carved in the same patterns that the wainscots were. Many of them are more heavily carved than the one shown here, and, like this one, they are almost always oak.

Fig. 68 Oak Stall Fig. 69 Oak Stall Fig. 71 A Rush Bottom. Fig. 70 Wainscot Chair Fig. 73 Walnut Chair.

In connection with such chairs as these it is easy to be seen how very important cushions were. The best workers in tapestries at an early date were the Flemish, and in Carte's "Life of Ormonde" he mentions that Piers, Earl of Ormonde (died 1539), brought out of Flanders and the neighbouring provinces artificers and manufacturers, whom he employed sundry Kilkenny in working tapestry, drapery, Turkey carpets, cushions. The Turkey carpets referred to were not floor coverings, but table covers. The only things used on floors at this early date were rushes.

In early colonial times houses were small, often not having more than four rooms, and in most of them the hall was the living-room, as well as the place where the best furniture was gathered.

The widow Frances Kilburn had in her hall when she died, in 1650, at Hartford, Connecticut, "tables formes, chairs, stools, benches," all valued at £1. Governor John Haynes, also of Hartford, Connecticut, died in 1653,"and in his hall were many articles, among them 5 leather and 4 flag bottomed chairs, 1 table and 3 joined stools." His parlour had " velvet chairs, turkey-wrought chairs and a green cloth carpet," this latter being a table, not a floor, covering.

There were various other styles of chairs which came into use about the eighteenth century that had certain marked characteristics. A very nice one, with a rush bottom, is given in Figure 71. There are a number of noticeable points about this chair which it is well to study. In the first place it is made of turned wood, except the feet, which are carved. Compare it with the previous figures and you will see the difference. Its front legs are finished in what is known as the " Spanish foot," which allways turns out and is ornamented with grooved lines. The back is of the shape so generally called " Queen Anne," but which is, properly speaking, Dutch, and the splat, or centre of the back, is without decoration, which shows its early origin. This form of back grew and was varied in many ways, as will be shown later.

 Fig. 72 American Chairs. Fig. 74 Rush-bottomed Chairs.

Figure 72 shows chairs with exactly similar backs, but varying legs, one having the ball-and-claw and the other the Dutch foot. These chairs were made in Massachusetts about 1768, and were part of a bride's outfit. They are made of Spanish mahogany, which can always be told by its weight, making such large chairs very clumsy to carry about, but enabling them to resist the wear and tear of more than a century.

An armchair of the same period, with very richly carved legs in low relief, and with the original cover of needlework, is shown in Figure 73.

These chairs were the housekeeper's pride and joy. They were carefully preserved in the best " room," and no child was permitted to sprawl on them; and I am afraid that the goodman, even if he had digged that day and delved, had to rest himself on something less choice.

He could smoke his pipe and take his ease in some chair like the one shown in Figure 74, which is ex- tremely comfortable even to-day, that is if one fancies a straight-backed chair No doubt it was constant sitting in such chairs as these which enabled our grandmothers to accomplish their endless household tasks. There was no inducement to lolling; your backbone was called on to fulfil its whole duty!

The comb-back chair (Figure 75) was not much of an improvement on the straight-backed one, but it had a finer appearance. The style of chair on which the comb is placed is known as the " roundabout," and is not particularly comfortable except for men. This is a fine stout example, was made between 1770 and 1775, and has long done duty in a Salem mansion.

Fig. 75 Comb-Back Chair Fig. 77 Rush-bottomed Chair. Fig. 76 Silver Chair Fig. 77 Wing-Cheek Chair.

Among the ballads by William Thackeray is one entitled " The Cane-bottomed Chair," which is so little known that I give a portion of it here:

"In tattered old slippers that toast at the bars, And a ragged old jacket perfumed with cigars Away from the world and its toils and its cares, I've a snug little kingdom up four pair of stairs. To mount to this realm is a toil, to be sure, But the fire there is bright and the air rather pure; And the view I behold on a sunshiny day Is grand through the chimney-pots over the way This snug little chamber is cramm'd in all nooks With worthless old knick-knacks and silly old books, And foolish old odds and foolish old ends, Crack'd bargains from brokers and keepsakes from friends. Old armor, prints, pictures, pipes, china, (all crack'd), Old rickety tables, and chairs broken-backed; A two-penny treasury, wondrous to see; What matter ? 't is pleasant to you, friend, and me. But of all the cheap treasures that garnish my nest, There 's one that I love and I cherish the best: For the finest of couches that 's padded with hair I never would change thee, my cane-bottom'd chair. 'Tis a bandy-legg'd, high-shoulder' d, worm-eaten seat. With a creaking old back, and twist'd old feet: But since the fair morning- when Fanny sat there I bless thee and love thee, old cane-bottom'd chair!" While the chairs shown so far, with perhaps but three exceptions, can well be classed as "there was furniture of such magnificence, made even before the Middle Ages, that one must pause a moment to consider it. Immense prices were paid by the Romans for single pieces of furniture. Cicero did not hesitate to pay a million sesterces ($45,000) for a table, and there is a record of one being carried into Spain in the fifth century by the Goths, which was surrounded by three toavs of fine pearls. It must have been of great size, for the record states that it was supported on 365 feet, these feet being of massy.

Coming to more modern times, there was, during the reign of King James (1603-1625), a great fancy for furniture made from solid silver, and this took the style of the period which was known as " Jacobean." Some of this choice furniture is still preserved in the castles for which it was made, and at Knole, the seat of Lord Sackville, may be found some of the most elegant. It would hardly seem of use to show within the limits of a book intended for the practical collector such rich articles as these were it not that some pieces are on sale in this country, and have been exhibited by Tiffany and Co. in New York. A silver chair once in the possession of the late Prince Waldeck is shown in Figure 76.

Table of contents

Source

The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

© Furniture Ferret 2023