Armchair (English, French style), 1760-1774
Photo by Peter Harholdt,...
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Photo by Peter Harholdt, 2004 (before conservation)

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Upholstered open armchair in the "French cabriolet" style, with wooden frame, exposed arm terminals and uprights, and legs. Its upholstered back is shield-shaped, and conforms somewhat to the shape of the sitter's back. Its broad seat is roughly horseshoe-shaped, swelling gently at the center front and outward at the sides. Its mahogany frame is exposed in a bead moulding along the lower edge of the seat apron, joining the contours of the softly-curved front and rear cabriole legs in a continuous line. The moulded mahogany terminals of the armrests are exposed, carved in scrolls, and join carved and moulded serpentine arm supports. The mahogany legs are slightly cabriole, with low-relief fanlike carving at the front knees and scrolls at the feet. The chair was upholstered several times, and there are shanks from hand-made tacks imbedded in it, suggesting that lines of ornamental tacking were part of an original or early upholstery.

In the collections of the Franklin Institute is another chair of the set, given by Dr. Addinell Hewson in 1934, and a third chair is in the hands of Stevenson family members. In the collections of Grumblethorpe, the historic home of the Wister family in Germantown, is a photograph of the house's last occupant, Charles Jones Wister, Jr., seated in a chair that resembles the "Franklin" chairs so closely that researchers for this database had little doubt of its being part of the same set. Wister died in 1910; the chair is no longer at Grumblethorpe. The families of Franklin, his descendents, and the Wisters were connected in several ways.

Recently, a fifth chair was identified, owned by members of the Haines family of Wyck in Germantown, Philadelphia. Elizabeth Solomon, of Wyck's staff, has researched the chair and found that it and a mate were owned by Miss Molly Donaldson in the nineteenth century and bequeathed to Wyck and to Grumblethorpe. The Wyck chair is still owned by members of the family.

The chairs in this set may have come from the London warerooms of chairmaker John Cobb: "This George III form of drawing-room chair, elegantly serpentined in the French 'cabriolet' fashion, was introduced in the 1760's and is particularly associated with the St. Martin's Lane cabinet-maker and upholsterer John Cobb (d. 1778). Cobb, who also traded in French chairs, is recorded as supplying a suite of related mahogany chairs in 1770...." email from John Hardy of Christie's, London, 6/17/2005.

Connection to Franklin
Believed owned by Franklin Terms of Use Credits