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Armchair

Charles H. White (American, 1796–1876)

c. 1853

Medium walnut with original printed wool upholstery Measurements H: 46 x W: 27 x D: 29 in. (116.8 x 68.6 x 73.7 cm) Credit Richard L. Simmons Acquisition Fund Accession Number 2007.59.1 Location Not on View

Narrative

The chair is one of the relatively few Rococo revival objects in America that retains its original spring seat upholstery—in this case, a wool upholstery decorated with vivid block-printed floral designs and galloon trims. It was made around 1853 for Philadelphia lawyer Richard Rush, son of the great revolutionary Benjamin Rush. The raised, medallion-shaped back is inspired by 18th-century French chairs; many such designs were revived during the Second Empire in France (1852–1870). Here, the proportions are enlarged, particularly the back, and the arms are purposely low to accommodate voluminous skirts. The pierced back and arms allow light to pass through and suggest a sense of delicacy that belies the heaviness of the wood. Surface coatings were applied to the native Pennsylvania walnut to suggest the grain of expensive, imported rosewood.