In the first decade of the eighteenth cen­tury, a new luxurious upholstered form, the easy chair, was introduced in Amer­ica. Large wings that attach to the back and afford the sitter, usually someone old or ill, protection from cold and drafts characterize the type. Padding on the in­terior of the wings and deep, down-filled cushions provided added comfort. In­tended as a piece of bedroom furniture, the easy chair was also occasionally fitted out as a commode or pot chair. The double-scroll arms with C-shaped panels are common to models produced before the late 1730s. The Bayou Bend chair is un­usual in several features. It combines the bold Baroque scalloped skirt and block-and-vase turned front legs, elements of the early type of easy chair, with a tripar­tite ball-and-ring medial stretcher, which replaced the earlier multiple vase-and-ring turned stretchers. Unlike the earlier type, the ball-and-ring stretcher was located not centrally but closer to the front legs and attached to blocks on long, vase-shaped side stretchers. While typically those later chairs with the ball-and-ring stretcher have nascent cabriole legs, or crookt feet (B.69.223), this example uses the earlier turned format.

Technical notes: Soft maple (front, rear, and right seat rail, stay rail, right S wing, front and right stretcher, right stile, right arm support, filler block in front of right arm sup­port), eastern white pine (left front corner block, right top corner block, interior right arm), hard maple (right front leg), birch (exte­rior right arm). At some point during the eighteenth century, as witnessed by the use of wrought nails, the chair’s upper frame was modified: the upper horizontal members of the wings and the crest rail were replaced and the fronts of the wings had pieces added just above the arm to make them deeper and more vertical. These alterations may have been an attempt to update the chair by creat­ing a simple arched crest and deeper, forward sloping wings. The Spanish feet are original and made of several pieces glued together; the rear stretcher lacks the central ball-and-ring turning and simply swells at the center. The rear legs have lost about two inches in height. The shape of the upholstery and loss of back legs was corrected by conservation in 1996.

Related examples: An easy chair at MMA, with similar front legs and small Spanish feet but with an early multiple-vase turned stretcher, demonstrates what the Bayou Bend example may have looked like before the al­teration of its wings and crest (Davidson and Stillinger 1985, p. 109, fig. 142); Winterthur, two early types with similar scalloped skirt (Forman 1988, nos. 87, 88) and three later types with ball-and-ring stretcher and cabriole legs (Forman 1988, nos. 90–92); MFA, Boston, an early scalloped-skirt type (Fairbanks et al. 1981, p. 595, pl. VII); Williamsburg, formerly in the Blagojevich Collection, an early example (Winchester 1963, p. 134); Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, sale 4116, April 27–29, 1978, lot 920, a turned-leg, Spanish-foot example with ball-and-ring stretcher.

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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Maker
American
Title
Easy Chair
Date
c. 1715–1735
Medium
Soft maple, eastern white pine, hard maple, and birch
Dimensions
48 × 32 7/8 × 31 1/2 in. (121.9 × 83.5 × 80 cm)
Credit Line

The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of Miss Ima Hogg

Current Location
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
MURPHY ROOM
Accession Number
B.58.104
Classification
Furniture
Provenance

Theophilus Parsons (1750–1813), Ipswich, Massachusetts; by descent to J. Lewis Stackpole, Boston (d. 1953); [John Kenneth Byard (1905–1960), Silvermine, Norwalk, Connecticut, probably by 1949]; [Israel Sack, New York]; purchased by Miss Ima Hogg, September 29, 1958; given to MFAH.