Easy Chair

Artist/maker unknown, American

Geography:
Made in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, North and Central America

Date:
1720-25

Medium:
Maple, oak, pine, birch

Dimensions:
48 1/8 x 31 1/4 x 35 1/2 inches (122.2 x 79.4 x 90.2 cm) Seat: 12 3/4 x 25 3/4 x 20 7/8 inches (32.4 x 65.4 x 53 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1999-62-1

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III, 1999

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Label:
One of the most expensive and luxurious types of seating furniture produced in colonial America was the fully upholstered armchair fitted with a high back and wings. The high cost of fine textiles during the period turned these upholstered chairs into symbols of wealth and status. Often made for the aged and infirm, the height of the back protected a sitter from drafts, and the padding added additional comfort. This chair is among the earliest upholstered armchairs with back wings known to have survived from early-eighteenth-century Boston. Its turned and joined base is drawn from Jacobean and Baroque stylistic influences, carried to New England by Puritan English immigrants.

Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    The generous gift of early New England and Delaware Valley furniture from the collection of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III greatly enhances the Museum’s remarkable holdings of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century furniture forms. This rare arm chair from Boston is an example of the significance of the Vogels’ collection.

    The rarity of this easy chair stems in part from the high cost of fine textiles in early colonial America. The resulting expense of padded and stitched foundations and finely finished textile coverings thus placed most fully upholstered furniture out of the reach of all but the wealthiest colonial households. The eighteenth-century flamestitch needlework on this chair is not the original, but it follows the pattern and form of luxurious upholstery of the highest style early eighteenth-century seating furniture. While no Philadelphia upholstered easy chairs of comparable early date are known to survive, over twenty from Boston, dating from 1695 to 1725, have been identified and are highly regarded for their historical significance, refined proportions, and rarity. This chair is thought to be among the earliest of only three surviving examples with turned feet. The angular, boldly raked stance of the chair’s back, together with its arched back crest, distinctive scroll-form arms, deep and accommodating seat, and elaborately sawn-shaped seat-rail combine to make it one of the most splendid and ambitious examples from this important and stylistically influential group of early American chairs. Jack L. Lindsey, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), pp. 24-25.