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Oval-backed armchair, one of a set including XF12, XF15, XF16 and XF38, English, unknown maker, c.1829, mahogany, upholstered in crimson silk damask, decorative brass close nails around the upholstered seats and around the bases of the back uprights. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photograph: Hugh Kelly
  • image Image 1 for XF16
  • image Image 2 for XF16

Oval-backed armchair, English, unknown maker, c.1829, mahogany upholstered in crimson silk damask,1 decorative brass close nails around the upholstered seats and around the bases of the back uprights.

Height: 98cm
Width: 59cm
Depth: 47cm

Museum number: XF16

Curatorial note

One of a set of four with XF12, XF15 and XF38. French style with decorative carving on the back-rest, arms and seats; carved ribbon detail at the centre of the top rail and leaves on the arms; tapering square fluted legs; seats and backs upholstered in crimson flowered silk damask, the back pads slightly concave; the chair backs have their original red glazed cotton outer back covers fixed from the inner front side of the frame.

These chairs are described in the Furniture and Fittings inventory as ‘four mahogany arm chairs the backs and seats stuffed and covered with crimson flowered silk’. Bolton referred to them as ‘a set of modified stuffed wheel-back armchairs decorated with detail of semi-Adam type.’ Their slightly frivolous quality, more suited to fashionable feminine salons, might make them seem unsuited to this mock-Gothic interior. However, we know that Soane entertained friends to tea in the ‘Parloir’ and they seem more appropriate in that context.

Until the purchase of these chairs in 1829 the Monk’s Parlour was furnished with two trellis backed chairs from the Dining Room set (XF117 etc). But these were presumably then removed, perhaps to the Breakfast Room, and do not appear in the Monk’s Parlour in the 1837 inventory.

After Soane’s death these four chairs were removed from the Monk’s Parlour and in 1884 were in the Morning Room on the second floor.3 They were restored by Lesley Wilson in 1995 and replaced in their original positions.

1 The original red glazed cotton outer back covers were found in situ by Lesley Wilson, along with the original horsehair back pads. In the absence of any traces of the original silk covering the cotton back covers confirmed the red colour. Prior to Lesley Wilson’s work the chairs had been re-upholstered by the Inspectress, Dorothy Stroud, in 1971 in a woven fabric finished with a braid (SM Archive, Repairs Register, 1971). Wilson found traces of a wine-coloured velvet under the tacks, probably a nineteenth-century covering and perhaps the same as that previously on cats 95 and 96; photographs of c.1928 seem to show cut velvet upholstery. The complete conservation report and photographs are in the SM Archive.
2 SM Archive 7/10/52 bill dated December 24 1829. Another bill SM Archive XVI.A.4. 2 from William Watson December 1829 lists ‘4 Chairs £4.4d / 2 do £6 / Crucifixion £12’ and appears to include the same four chairs as the Hitchcock bill (Watson probably acted as a middle man in the transaction). The ‘2 do £6’ in the Watson bill may well be the two Dutch chairs as it seems likely, if the four chairs are those in the Monk’s Parlour, that the whole bill is for items for that area (the ‘Crucifixion’ was for the adjacent Monk’s Cell).
3 They appear in an illustration of the Morning Room in The Graphic Magazine in that year. The article on Soane’s furniture in The Cabinet Maker 1880, op. cit., note 71, described them as ‘noble and inviting’ and as ‘upholstered in superb old French stamped velvet’.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Purchased by John Soane in 1829 from C. Hitchcock for £4.4s.2

Literature

A.T. Bolton, ‘The Furniture of Sir John Soane’, The Architect’s Journal, 22 August 1923, pp. 275-81, figure 3
P. Thornton, ‘Soane and Furniture,’ (unpublished typescript) produced for a talk at the FHS Symposium, 1985


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk