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.

If you have questions about this work of art or the MFAH Online Collection please contact us.

Maker
American
Title
Couch
Date
c. 1720–1740
Medium
Soft maple
Dimensions
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
PINE ROOM
Accession Number
B.90.5
Classification
Furniture
Provenance

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