Chairs And Sofas Part 6

Following along in somewhat similar lines to the chairs were the forms, settles, and settees, which even tually developed into the sofa.

The rude board settle, examples of which can even yet be found in some conservative old kitchens, was followed by something not much more comfortable, it is true, but a trifle more ornate. They were often rudely carved in Gothic style, or they had wainscot trimmings, and cushions were used to render their un compromising angles less sharp.

One of these settees is given in Figure 92 and has a simple bandy leg, a panelled back, and is made of oak. Like the old oak wainscoting, it is quite free from polish or finish of any kind, the wood being almost black from age and use. Forms frequently did not have any backs to them, and must have been not very conducive to lingering at table, even when the seats were cushioned. All during the seventeenth cen tury quantities of settees were made of varying pat terns and woods, some caned like the chair seats, and with openwork wooden backs, and some with rush seats, or stuffed and covered. I do not find many of these in this country, and can hardly account for their disappearance, since they were here with the chairs which matched them. In many old inventories there is mention of settees or couches, though in the latter case it is generally specified that they are covered.

Fig. 92 Oak Settee Fig. 95 Tapestry.

In the inventory of Theophilus Eaton (1657), Governor of the New Haven Colony, may be found the "Hall," following list of cushions which he had in his which was really one of the most important rooms in his house. I have mentioned this inventory before, since it shows what a man high in office considered ample plenishing for his family. The furniture was:

"A drawing Table and a round Table A Cubberd & 2 longe formes A Cubberd cloth & Cushions 4 Setwork Cushions 6 greene Cushions & a greate Chaire with Needleworke." There were many other chairs and stools, and all of them were covered with set or needlework, and there were the ten cushions in addition.

A very choice example of a settee in Adam brothers style is shown in Figure 93; it has still the remains of its old covering, and the exquisite carving is in good condition. This style of settee was in long before the Adam brothers' day; they only took what they found and improA^ed upon the decoration. This represents three chairs set together, and we find these settees with two, three, or four chair backs, and rarely with five. The carving at the back is in what was called " honeysuckle " pattern, and was used by all the makers in the late eighteenth century. It was a favourite with Hepplewhite, who used it in inlay as well as in carving.

A two chair-back settee is shown in the next figure, and while it is much in the Chippendale style, I should place it a little earlier than that maker, since it has the "Dutch foot," which was so much used during the first half of the eighteenth century. Hogarth, the great painter of London life, who fearlessly held the mirror up to nature when he showed its follies and sins in such sets of drawings as the " Rake's Progress," used such settees in his pictures as this one in Figure 94. Chairs on this style are often called " Hogarth chairs," which is much more appropriate than to call them Chippendale. This settee is of walnut, and the splat shows more ornamentation than is common in this pattern and in this wood.

 Fig. 96 Settee, Mahogany Frame.

The next two Figures (95 and 96) might have been made by either Hepplewhite or Sheraton, and it is safest to say that they belong to the last quarter of the eighteenth century than to assign them to any individual maker.

They both show decidedly the French influence and are charming pieces of furniture, the delicate fluting on legs and arms being about their only decoration. Their appearance is still further improved by the appropriate covering, which, though modern, is strictly in keeping with the style of the pieces.

An unusual and beautiful sofa, for which it is hard to assign an exact date, is next shown (Figure 97), This sofa, of splendid Italian workmanship, is part of a gift by Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfield Moore, and may be found in Memorial Hall, Philadelphia. It is of oak, the carving on the arms and back being in bold relief. I do not think that there are many sofas in this country of this pattern, yet I know of another very much like this, which has been in a house in Salem, Massachusetts, for many generations. But then Salem, with her fleet of ships touching at every port, had at her command about everything that the world afforded. Although oak was a common wood and one easily worked, it was not so much used in the eighteenth century as it had been previously. Experts on furniture are used to place an approximate date on pieces by noting the wood of which it is made, and first came the oak period, then walnut, then mahogany. Walnut was not an easily worked wood, and the great caiwers, like Grinling Gibbons, used something softer, Gibbons himself preferring limewood. This resembles satinwood in colour, but it has not the beautiful gloss and sheen which is one of the great attractions of satin wood.

 JFig. 97 Italian Sofa.

Chippendale chose a close-set pine for many of his carvings when gilt was to be used, and some less hard wood than either mahogany or oak was adopted by the Adam brothers for the furniture they designed. The rest of the sofas given cover a period of perhaps forty years. They are all of mahogany and may be called variations on the Empire style. The earliest one is given in Figure 98, and is curious from the fact that the ends are of solid and slatted wood, while the upholstery is confined to the back and seat. It is of a choice dark mahogany, with carved panels at the tops of the legs. This same style of frame is followed in the sofa in Figure 99, except that more carving was used. This sofa still retains its ancient horsehair covering. These hard uncomfortable articles of furniture were all too common in the first years of the nineteenth century. They were kept in the best room, — that damp, dark, musty room, which was opened and aired only on Sundays and holidays. I said that these were common in the opening years of the nine teenth century, and indeed in some parts of the country they have held their oaati for a hundred years and more. Within the last five years I have sat in more than one room with a haircloth sofa, slippery and chill, and tried to keep warm near an air-tight stove, which keeps your back at the freezing-point while your face is broiling. New England, as conservative as the country for which she was named, preserves her antiques and the customs which go with them more than any other section of the country. Uncomfortable as some of these be, it is pleasant to meet with those who will not sell their birthright for a mess of pottage, and to whom the venerable sofa is a throne of their ancestors.

 Hj Fig. 99 Carved Empire Sofa. Fig. 100 Sofa Veneered and Carved. Fig. 101 Carved Empire Sofa.

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Source

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

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