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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.