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Armchair

Decorative Arts

On View: American Identities: A New Look, Orientation Gallery, 5th Floor

Thomas Brooks (1811–1887) ran a successful furniture-making business at the corner of Fulton and Sand Streets, near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. This chair was part of a large order placed with Brooks and paid for on June 4, 1872, by Judge Nathaniel Holmes Clement for his house in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The purchase is documented by a bill of sale, a rare surviving nineteenth-century example, and offers us a vital glimpse into the past. The bill informs us that Clement paid $425 for a walnut sofa, two armchairs, and four "window" chairs, all upholstered in silk. The chair is rendered In the Renaissance Revival style that was popular in the United States from the late 1850s. The style is characterized by classical-inspired motifs such as the carved dolphins, acanthus leaf, and roundel on the crest of the chair and by bold turned decoration, as seen in the legs.

MEDIUM Walnut, modern upholstery
  • Place Manufactured: Brooklyn, New York, United States
  • DATES 1872
    DIMENSIONS 38 1/4 x 32 1/2 x 31 in. (97.2 x 82.6 x 78.7 cm) frag1: 21 1/4 x 49 in. (54 x 124.5 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Decorative Arts
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in American Identities: A New Look, Orientation Gallery, 5th Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 52.120
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. Dorothea E. Curnow
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Thomas Brooks. Armchair, 1872. Walnut, modern upholstery, 38 1/4 x 32 1/2 x 31 in. (97.2 x 82.6 x 78.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. Dorothea E. Curnow, 52.120. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE detail, CUR.52.120_detail.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Open Armchair upholstered in patterned blue silk damask with stylized acanthus enclosed within diamonds; tufted back and arms and a walnut frame. The back is more or less square in elevation; slightly curved in plan, with an exposed walnut frame with palmette over rosette flanked by dolphins and scrolls in center of cresting rail. Arms are over-stuffed with walnut arm supports. Square seat with wide, soft-pleated front. Front legs are trumpet-turned and rear legs are round in section and flare out at rear. The front legs have original casters, while the rear legs do not (never had any). I. TYPE: Open Armchair (en suite with 52.118 Side chair) (Renaissance Revival style) (T. Brooks) II. FRAME: a. Materials: Walnut b. Finish: Refurbished III. UPHOLSTERY a. Cover: Wool and silk damask (re-covered 1952) b. Trim: Gimped galloon with supplementary warps; two-ply cord with flange (re-covered 1952) c. STRUCTURE: (i) Webbing: Unavailable for inspection; (ii) Springs: Nine springs, unavailable for inspection; (iii) Edges: Unavailable for inspection; (iv) Cake: Unavailable for inspection :(Mellon Project 1997): TEXTILE; The records state that this chair was re-covered in 1952 with a silk and wool gothic design blue monochromatic damask. Seatback is diamond-tufted with channeling on top and bottom. Pleated ruffle on front border. Arms are elaborately padded and diamond-tufted in the round. UNDERUPHOLSTERY; No original materials have been discovered through exploration from seatback and underside. Seatback tufts appear to be stuffed with cotton (modern). Seat appears to be higher than first presentation. If original upholstery materials remain, they are likely to be found in the arms. FRAME: Open-armchair, exposed walnut frame, carved and burl-veneered. Seatback is generally square in elevation; slightly curved in plan. Crest rail with palmette over rosette flanked by dolphins and scrolls. Base of seat rail partially framed in walnut with two front-facing rosettes. Front legs are trumpet-turned with casters, rear legs are round in section, flare out at rear, without casters. Casters appear to be original, cuffed and marked "4" on each side of wheel. FINISH: Appears to have been touched up at some point. ELEMENTS OF UPHOLSTERY THAT APPEAR TO BE ORIGINAL: The upholstery design of arms is so elaborate it is believed there is some historic evidence in place to justify such an elaborate profile.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (87%)
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