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image XF20
Lightweight chair, one of a set including XF19, XF20 and XF84, English, unknown maker, early nineteenth century, beech with cane seat, painted in imitation of bamboo,©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photograph: Hugh Kelly

Lightweight chair painted in imitation of bamboo1, English, unknown maker, early nineteenth century

Beech with cane seat

Height: 85cm
Width (seat): 44cm
Width (back): 32cm
Depth: 40cm

Museum number: XF20

Curatorial note

One of a set of three with XF19 and XF84. The backs with three vertical bars between the top rail and the cross bar; single narrow stretcher between the front legs and another between the back legs, and two turned stretchers on each side.

These chairs are the only surviving set of three that could be the ‘3 stained wood chairs with caned bottoms’ in the Morning Room in 1837. However, they could also have been in the Model Room (where ‘5 painted cane bottom chairs’ and ‘2 wood painted chairs with cane bottoms’ are listed in 1837) or in Soane’s Bed Chamber (where ‘5 stained wood chairs with cane bottoms’, said to be ‘very old’, are listed).

They may be the remaining chairs (along with XF168 and XF180) from the twelve ‘bamboo and Japann’d’ examples provided by John Robins in 1807 for the furnishing of the front floor drawing room at No. 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.2

Soane designed a bamboo chair for Robert Fellowes of Shotesham Park, Norfolk, in August 1790 (8/5/11) which combines elements found in this set and XF168 and XF180 (the turned front legs rush seats and triple splats in the back) with a plain square sabre back leg.3

The ‘List of furniture disposed of in 1837’ in the AB Inventory includes ‘6 cane seat chairs (very old)’. This must explain in part why only five of the fifteen painted cane bottom chairs listed in the Furniture and Fittings inventory remain in the collection, although it still leaves a further four unaccounted for.

In 2015 three of these chairs were reinstated in their original positions in the recreated Morning Room as part of Phase 2 of Opening up the Soane.

1 The finish on these chairs may well be modern. Summerson Repairs Ledger contains two entries as follows: 1951 ‘3 light standard chairs stripped & painted bamboo by Jacksons (£5.7.0 each) squab seats made by Inspectress (stuff for them £4.12.7)’ and 1955 ‘2 light standard chairs stripped and painted bamboo by B. [this seems to mean Bowett] (£11.4.6)’. The set of three is presumably these three identical chairs XF19, XF20 and XF84 and the set of two is presumably XF168 & XF180.
2 SM Archive XVI.A.4.John Robins furnishing account for 1807.
3 SM 8/5/11 dated August 12 1790. Chamber chairs of a similar design survive at Shotesham, perhaps designed by Soane.

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