The couch, whose name comes from the French verb coucher, to lie down, is essen­tially a chair with an extended seat. De­rived from the French form known as the lit de repos, the couch was introduced from the Continent to England in the mid-seventeenth century. Caned examples of the couch form, along with caned chairs, were being exported from London to America by the late seventeenth cen­tury. To compete with these imports, local Boston chairmakers produced large numbers of leather-covered, turned chairs with arched, molded backs, which came to be called Boston chairs. A small group of Boston-made couches, of which this is one, relates in design to those Boston chairs, and was undoubtedly pro­duced by the same craftsmen. Typically made of maple, finished with a dark stain, these couches feature arched and molded back frames that could be raised or low­ered by means of adjustable chains to the desired angle. The turned vase finials, legs, and bulb-and-ring stretcher echo those elements of the Boston chair.

Technical notes: The upholstery arrange­ment of boxed mattress, cushion, and two pil­lows of graduated sizes is based on two early eighteenth-century English couches with surviving show covers (Macquoid 1987, vol. 1, fig. 197; and vol. 2, fig. 69 and p. 75, stating that the tradition of graduated-size pillows dates from the sixteenth century).

Related examples: Two are at Winterthur (Forman 1988, p. 355, no. 83, and p. 356, no. 84); Milwaukee Art Museum (Jobe et al. 1991, p. 75, no. 24); Yale (Kane 1976, p. 235, no. 221); RISD (Monkhouse and Michie 1986, no. 94); MMA (Nutting 1962, no. 1591); private collec­tion (Read 1938); Old Manse, Concord, Massa­chusetts; Sotheby’s, New York, sale 6954, Janu­ary 16, 1997, lot 37; American Art Association, Anderson Galleries, New York, Garvan Col­lection sale, January 8-10, 1931, lot 282.

Book excerpt: Warren, David B., Michael K. Brown, Elizabeth Ann Coleman, and Emily Ballew Neff. American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection. Houston: Princeton Univ. Press, 1998.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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c. 1720–1740
Soft maple
37 1/2 × 21 1/2 × 65 1/8 in. (95.3 × 54.6 × 165.4 cm)
Credit Line

The Bayou Bend Collection, museum purchase funded by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund

Current Location
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Accession Number

[John S. Walton, Jewett City, Connecticut]; Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Harrison, Austin, Texas; purchased by MFAH, 1990.