This side chair or “back stool,” one of a pair (see HC.F.1913.074.[SF]), is from the later English Baroque period (ca. 1685-1700). The front legs have carved, so-called Spanish feet (scrolls that turn under at the bottom), a central block, and a cap formed from four open-work volutes surmounted by a gadrooned border. Between the central blocks is an arched medial stretcher formed from C-curved volutes. The associated, contemporary upholstery is made from early eighteenth-century petit point needlework in wool threads. On the back is an exuberant bouquet of flowers in a wide-mouth, gadrooned vase sitting on an elaborate plinth with leaf sprays to either side. The seat’s upholstery has similar flowers but without the vase, and leaf sprays are located above the front and side seat rails. The design and placement of these textile pieces suggest that they were created for a chair of approximately this shape and size. However, it is uncertain when the present upholstery was applied to this chair.
During the seventeenth century, carved walnut chairs were only found in the homes of the wealthy, and upholstered chairs in particular indicated great wealth and status. Although the coverings could be made from expensive imported fabrics, many chairs were upholstered with needlework produced either by upper class women, who undertook needlework for their pleasure, or by professional needlewomen, who undertook needlework especially for larger sets. Needlework covers made in the first thirty years of the eighteenth century were distinctive, having a vibrantly-colored, centered pictorial scene or floral bouquet often taken from published engravings. These were worked in tent stitch (petit point and gros point) with both wools and silks.
Purchased from Owen Grant, Ltd., London, by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 8/1913 ("in original 'petit point' upholstery").
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 8/1913-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.