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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Pair of Handsome English Leather Upholstered Library Armchairs

Late 19th Century
36 1/2”  high x 20 ½” wide

These armchairs, which date from the late Victorian period, are executed in rosewood of fine and even grain.  The use of rosewood in furniture began in earnest at the end of the 18th century and reached a peak by the end of the 19th century in England, America and on the Continent.  The proliferation of the China trade brought this attractively-grained and very dense wood to cabinetmakers throughout the 19th century, where they incorporated it into furniture veneers and inlays in England in the late Georgian and Regency periods (and in the corresponding Federal and Classical periods in America).  Through the remainder of the 19th century, rosewood was at times used in solid form, as in the offered pair of chairs, which gives them remarkable solidity and weight.

The craft of upholstery reached new heights in the 19th century, with constant innovation in internal springing and stuffing, and the use of deep buttoning and tufting of cloth and leather.  This pair of chairs retain an old--if not original--leather covering, which has developed a wonderful patina of age without the ripping and tearing which is the norm for original chair upholstery of this period.  Of commodious scale, the chairs are built for comfort.

Stylistically the chairs are influenced by the classicism of the earlier Regency period, when forms such as the scrolled handholds and paw feet were in vogue.  Such furniture, particularly when covered in leather, was popular in gentlemens’ clubs and libraries, and in the private offices of the prosperous merchant class of Victorian England and America.  These chairs, with their construction in solid rosewood and their well-preserved leather covering, are particularly appealing survivors from this fruitful period in history.

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