Walnut side chair with caned seat and back and peacock carving.





Walnut side chair with caned seat and back and peacock carving.




Walnut side chair with caned seat and back, richly carved with scrolls, peacocks and eagles and with ‘horsebone’ front legs.

Full Description

This caned side chair is made of walnut with caned panels in the seat and back. The high ‘banister’ back is formed of turned and carved banister-style posts either side of four carved panels framing a caned centre panel. The back panels comprise the crest rail, carved with a peacock with its tail feathers fanned out, flanked by foliate scrolls, two side rails and a lower rail, similarly carved with scrolls and eagles. The back posts are turned; above the seat there are twist-turned elements with bobbin and reel turnings at the top, middle and bottom; at the junctions with the back rails there are squared blocks with each of the front faces carved with a single flower, and there are turned finials at the tops. The back legs are continuous with the posts, turned and with squared blocks at the joints and feet. The seat is a frame with moulded edges and a central caned panel. It is joined into the back legs and rests on top of the front legs, which are fitted to the underside of the seat with dowel joints. The front legs are turned with reel and bobbin turnings at the top and carved below in the ‘horsebone’ shape with foliate carving and scrolled feet. The front stretcher is carved with scrolls and an eagle. There are H stretchers, turned with square blocks at the joints and a higher turned stretcher at the back. The chair was re-caned in 1984.

This is a good example of a caned chair dating between 1690 and 1710. By this date the fashion for high-backed chairs was well advanced, reaching its peak by around 1720; the upright back legs here suggest an earlier date than the raked back legs which were introduced from around 1710 and offered greater stability as the height of the backs increased. The type of framed seat in this chair was introduced soon after 1700, an innovation compared with earlier caned chairs where the seat rails were mortice and tenon jointed into the four legs. And the ‘horsebone’ style for the front legs was in fashion between around 1690 and 1710 (Bowett, 2002).

Caned chairs were introduced in the early 1660s, an innovation made possible by the import of rattan by the East India Company. They became especially popular in London as fashionable but relatively inexpensive furniture, typically being half the cost of an upholstered chair. The best of the caned chairs were made in walnut, and were finely carved and ‘fine-caned’, which meant the caning was done with thinly cut strands of cane woven in a close mesh through closely spaced holes in the frame. In this case, although the chair is walnut and richly carved, it is not of the precision and detail of the highest quality work, and the caning is quite broad and widely spaced, not the fine cane of the most expensive chairs. It would probably have been made for the relatively wealthy merchant and professional ‘middling sort’ rather than the aristocracy or Royal Household. Few caned chairs were made outside London at this period, and their manufacture was concentrated in the area around St Paul’s Cathedral (Dewing, 2008).


The back posts have been restored and the finials replaced.
When purchased the caned panels in the seat and back had been replaced with upholstery; this was removed and the caning was restored in 1984.



Physical Dimensions

H. 122
W. 48
D. 53

Parker Numbers

OM 5826


Details not recorded, but the chair was acquired for the Collection prior to 1984.


Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, From Charles II to Queen Anne, Antique Collectors Club, 2002. For a similar chair with peacock carvings at Montacute House, see, p.263, plate 8:63.
David Dewing, Cane Chairs, Their Manufacture and Use in London, 1670-1730, Regional Furniture Vol. XXII, 2008.
See also Laurie Lindey, ‘Thomas Warden (c.1660-1701) and Cane Chair-Makers in the City of London’, Furniture History, Vol. LII, 2016. The inventory of Thomas Warden, cane chair maker, records both phoenix and peacock chairs.