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image XF290
Garden chair, one of a pair including XF290 and XF291 British, probably Carron Iron works, Falkirk, c.1810, cast iron. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photograph: Hugh Kelly.

Garden chair, British, probably Carron Iron works, Falkirk, c.1810, cast iron

Height: 91 cm
Width: 62cm
Depth: 46cm

Museum number: XF290

Curatorial note

One of a pair with XF291. With straight square legs and slatted seats with bands of pierced work (small quatrefoils and diamonds) forming the front and side aprons. The pierced decorative seat backs each have three vertical shaped rails with row of small quatrefoils alternating with diamonds at the top and a row of three larger quatrefoils flanked by half quatrefoils. The pierced arms are in the form of half-rosettes with the spandrel between these and the backs filled with a quatrefoil. There are bolts at top rail and stretcher and bolted struts front and back.

This pair of Gothic chairs is first recorded in Soane’s collection in a view of 1828.1 Although they are garden chairs there is no evidence that they ever stood outside in either of Soane’s small courtyards. When Soane converted his large wine cellar into a Crypt in 1834-35 they were moved down to the basement and placed in the south passage, where they can be glimpsed in a view of the Crypt by C J Richardson of 1836 (Vol. 82, 121).

A large set of seats of identical pattern was at Charleville Forest, Co. Offaly, Ireland. A pair of cast iron benches of identical pattern in the Richardson-Owens-Thomas House in Savannah, Georgia, was presented to the captain of the steam-ship Savannah by Tsar Alexander I when the ship visited St Petersburg in 1819. It has therefore been suggested that the chairs were made by the Imperial Iron Works at St Petersburg, and there is perhaps a certain French influence in the design which might be expected if they were from that source. However, the Carron works were the most famous in Europe and even in their infancy had traded with Russia (there are records of cannon being sent to St Petersburg from Carron in 1773). The Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia (later Tsar Nicholas I) visited the Carron Iron Works in 1817 and so it is possible either that the chairs in America were Russian-made copies of Carron patterns or that they were themselves manufactured in Scotland and had been taken to Russia. An identical chair to those in the Soane was in a private collection in southern Scotland in the early 1990s.2

1 SM Vol. 83, 22 drawn by Arthur Mee and dated 23 December 1828.
2 Correspondence in the object files at SJSM

Literature

R.W. Symonds, ‘Furniture in the Soane Museum’, Country Life, January 27 1950p. 222, Figure 9.


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