Winged easy chair with ebonised beech frame

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Identifier

FPF024

Title

Winged easy chair with ebonised beech frame

Date

1690-1710

Description

Winged easy chair with ebonised beech frame, carved ‘horsebone’ legs and scroll-carved stretcher.

Full Description

This upholstered easy chair has a beech frame with a high upholstered rectangular back and full-height slightly splayed wings on either side, with straight and flat upholstered arms which are also slightly splayed; the arms rest on diagonally set ‘horsebone’-carved supports which are continuous with the front legs, similarly shaped and carved with leaves, terminating in scrolled-under feet. The seat rails support a part-boarded bottom, possibly original, and are covered with fabric and trimming which conceals the seat frame; it is furnished with a loose cushion. The deep front stretcher is richly carved and pierced with scrolls. There is an H-form stretcher which is a replacement, with baluster turnings, squared blocks at the back and side joints, and round blocks at the front joints; these stretchers are of beech, without stain or polish. The back legs are square section and raked. The exposed parts of the frame are ebonised, i.e., stained black to resemble ebony.

Easy chairs were a development of so-called sleeping chairs, such as the example at Ham House, c.1678, which has a reclining back (Bowett, 2002). From around 1690, easy chairs with fixed backs and wings, or ‘cheeks’ began to be made in greater numbers, but they were clearly luxury items involving a large amount of expensive upholstery. They were the forerunners of the later so-called Queen Anne and Georgian wing armchairs which remain a popular form to this day.

The use on this chair of diagonally set ‘horsebone’-carved legs and arm supports is comparable with an easy chair at Knole, c.1690 (Bowett, ibid), and the suggested date for the present chair is c.1690-1710, although it has been altered and restored. The arms have been replaced in elm, and it is suggested the original arms may have been curved and set rather higher, since the arm supports have been truncated. The straight and flat arms seen here conform to designs by Daniel Marot, and are seen on the easy chair in his 1703 engraving of the library at Het Loo (Bowett, ibid), so it is possible this was a reference for the replacement arms. Overall the chair is rather too narrow and it is possible it was converted from a high-back upholstered easy chair with curved wooden arms, into the present winged chair.

Other repairs are to the front stretcher which has had one half replaced and the whole has been re-backed. The upholstery of the chair is 20th century: it is of the correct shape, however, and the red velvet cover is appropriate in style. Eyelet holes in the sacking under the seat show this was re-used bed canvas.

The chair was copied as a reproduction piece in the 1920s and 1930s by Frederick Parker & Sons and later by Parker Knoll.

Condition

Arms replaced in elm.
Front stretcher part-replaced and restored, with new back support.
H-form stretchers replaced.
Upholstery 20th century.

Materials

Beech with elm and oak repairs.
Upholstery.

Physical Dimensions

H. 124
W. 71
D. 89

Parker Numbers

Cloth label sewn under the seat, inscribed 884.
926. 4387.
Parker Knoll models PK521 and PK530 were reproduced from this chair.

Provenance

Purchased by Frederick Parker & Sons, May 1911, from Thornton and Smith for £11.10.0.

Notes

Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, Antique Collectors Club, 2002, p. 95, Plate 3:47 for the Ham House chair; p.243, Plate 8:24 for the Marot engraving; and p. 251, Plate 8:41 for the Knole easy chair.
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