Armchair Maker: Unknown

ca. 1750

American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900


This armchair was made around 1750 in the wealthy colonial port city of Philadelphia. It is a superlative example of Baroque, or Queen Anne style, furniture made in the American colonies. A main characteristic of the Queen Anne style is the S-curve, which artist William Hogarth called "the line of beauty." Here, the serpentine S-curve becomes the chair’s decoration. The back, seat, arms, and legs are all curves that intersect and echo each other and give the chair a sense of animation. The graceful design emphasizes the beauty of the wood, which is black walnut, an indigenous American hardwood. The curves are punctuated by areas of carving that include shells, scrolls, and ball-and-claw feet. This type of foot was employed by British furniture makers in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, but it fell out of fashion relatively quickly. It was widely used in the American colonies, where it was associated with the Rococo, or Chippendale, style. It is unusual to see a colonial chair of this early date with ball-and-claw feet. The hoop-shaped arms were also rarely used by American chairmakers, but they effectively echo the outline of the crest and splat. The ample proportions, graceful curves, and carved details give the armchair a feeling of restrained opulence. When it was made, it would have represented the height of sophistication.

Medium

Black walnut and maple slip seat frame

Dimensions

44 × 27 1/8 × 23 in. (111.76 × 68.9 × 58.42 cm)

Credit Line

Anonymous gift

Accession Number

2010.165.1

Culture
Period

18th century

Classification
Disclaimer

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.

Provenance

Provenance

George P. Bissell (b. 1872) and Jesse Eliott Bissell (1876–1953), Wilmington, Del, by 1910; inherited by their son Alfred E. Bissell (1910–1957) and Julia Andrews Bissell (1907–1994), Chadds Ford, Penn; thus by descent to the donors; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
Bibliography
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 54–55, no. 8, ill
  • "Acquisitions," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Online Supplement (accessed March 1, 2012), 16, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

armchairs, utilitarian objects

Technical metadata and APIs

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