Possible dating of the sofa

Posted On January 16, 2016 at 9:32 am by / No Comments


Possible dating of the sofa

The current sofa we’re speaking of, was manufactured in the style commonly referred as “Louis XIII. style, who ruled France between 1610-43. The problem with that naming is that Louis XIII’s period preferred a different style to the current “Os de Mouton” (literally Mutton Bone – Mutton Horn) one. In Louis XIII style, legs were straight and turned or twist-turned, with central, turned rails and blocky joints. It wasn’t until Louis XIV’s time until baroque took over and more curved shapes appeared, however, turned furniture was very common. Moliére upon his death was quite well off, and possessed several pieces of expensive furniture, there were twenty-two arm-chairs in his house,a mong which were ” twelve of twisted walnut with lion heads and six with sphinx faces ; two of walnut with twisted pillars , but still, a majority of his chairs had turned struts.
Flemish-style carving (that later went on to be a favorite application of Charles II in Baroque England) influenced the decorative treatment of upholstered settees, but it was upholstery that revolutionized this piece of social seating. The Louis XIV curve is simple,firm and concise, with short radius; it never shows that species of loosened languor. Outside of several decorative techniques, that were also known in the early 17th century, like gilding, veneering, marquetry, and became widespread from around 1650, we have to emphasize the importance of upholstering. About the used wood materials; the ebony went out of fashion, and among several others walnut became a favorite raw material of ebenistes (see Moliére above).
Despite the strict etiquettes of European courts at the time, chairs and other sitting furniture enjoyed a greater liberty: the Court of France is the only one where the height of the chair back is of no consequence ; in every other European Court ” the difference in the height of the chair-back marks the difference between persons.” This is the order of precedence: at the bottom, the hassocks: those of noble ladies are adorned with gold gimp ; those for ladies of the law and the bourgeoisie have a mere silk edging .
One important invention of the upholsterers under Louis XIV was the sofa, which is, to say the truth, merely a rejuvenation of the bench, which had had so long and honourable a career in the middle ages . Sofas were initially joined chairs, these early settees already sported upholstery, but had wooden arms and less cushioning. On the other hand, sofas are completely upholstered. The type of furniture and word sopha as we know appeared around 1680, and became synonymous with canapé. Some little time later, Furetiere, in 1690, gives this definition: “a kind of backed chair, very wide, in which two persons can sit very comfortably. . . . The word is new to the language, and some say sopha.” This source also reinforces that the earliest “modern” sofas appeared not much earlier than 1680.
To sum it up: the current piece judging by its style and general finish, also taking the walnut’s patina into account, is very likely to be indeed from the late 17th . C., but rather from around the late Louis XIV period (attention, this type is usually referred as L. XIII. style despite being manufactured under XIV), or even the (French) Regency period (that spanned ~1700-1730, despite the real regency started only in 1714). All-in-all, the sofa should be set around 1690-1700, the style of nails being the best indicator (in case the original/same as original ones were used, but their amount is also a clue).


A modern iteration of an early Louis XIV. settee.


This one is dated to 1700, notice the turned legs, but what’s more important, the nailwork.


Allegedly from 1780, maybe ours was the sample for the cabinet-maker, but notice how different are the nails, and the cushioning was rarely split in the 17th C.


The 3rd one is dated to around 1690-1700, but the upholstery’s restoration seems off despite the correct style of fabric.
What all of these sofas lack is a support: or else the lower scroll tip of the console rests directly on the ground, with a little cube of plain wood interposed to take hard wear and knocks…
Upholstery of sofas
The style and quality of upholstery was of utmost importance. Beside the above statements, those of noble ladies are adorned with gold gimp ; those for ladies of the law and the bourgeoisie have a mere silk edging, we have some more data on how these were historically covered. As an important rule back then, the canape or sopha, with arm-chairs to match, composes the classic suite of seats that has grown indissolubly wedded to the idea of a drawing-room. As these pieces of furniture were constantly in a protected environment and it wasn’t an uncommon thing to re-upholster them time to time, people were prone to dress them in the most delicate stuffs, of the most easily fading hues : gold brocade, white Chinese satin, yellow damask, flesh-coloured moire, aurora Genoa velvet with silver ground, but other Eastern materials were fashionable depending on the exact period, like Turkish silk from Bursa, Flemish embroidery, etc. Sometimes one material only is used for a seat, sometimes two different silks are set side by side in stripes, or in compartments, in the same way as for the hangings of beds and walls ; in this case the seams are covered with braiding of gold or silver or silk outlining the compartments ; the same braid hides the little nails that fasten the stuff to the wooden frame, and is itself fastened down with large gilt or silvered decorative nails.
When chairs were not covered with tapestries from the looms of Beauvais and Aubusson or needlework, they were covered as far as possible with the same material as the walls; and when one referred to the furniture of a room it meant the whole ensemble of the same material, hangings, curtains, and chairs.
As for colour, Caillot observes that “the aristocracy in their mansions remained faithful to the
classic hangings of crimson damask, divided and upheld vertically and horizontally by gilt fillets,” or else golden yellow damask; but that in the houses of financiers and bourgeois “the hangings and curtains of yellow or crimson damask had been taken down and sky blue stretched upon the walls or partitions they had deserted.” Many other colours besides this “sky blue ” were used :bright colours and sober colours, pearl greys, water greens, pinks glazed with white, but also, and very often, hues much less dull and diluted than we give them credit for to-day.
The dress of the seat is often finished off with a long fringe of silk or wool running round the frieze and the lower edge of the back, when it is separated from the seat,’ and by a frangeon or moiety an edging fringe the threads of which are too short to hang down. A further fringe in gold or silver might be placed above this. It is easy to recognise chairs that were meant to for just above the legs there is a plain strip of wood, almost left in the rough…
The one upholstered in canvas, dated to 1780 is estimated ~12,000 USD. The blue one is much cheaper, for ~7000 USD. What I think is the latter’s restoration is not the best, and possibly the new owner cannot easily replace the upholstery (it was usual back then to ship the furniture in plain canvas, and the fabrics were installed at the destination). Furthermore, the color and patina of said item isn’t very convincing IMO, might be a much newer piece (see the previous, or ours as reference). On the other hand, considering that this piece from 1815 costs ~34,000 USD, the price might even be higher than the current 26,000.

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