Lyman Allyn Art Museum
New London, CT
Lyman Allyn Museum of Art at Connecticut College Acquires Rare Chippendale Chair
Lyman Allyn Museum of Art at Connecticut College announces its acquisition of a rare Chippendale mahogany side chair with original gilt leather upholstery crafted in Norwich, Connecticut, c. 1785. This unique piece may be the only surviving example of original 18th century gilt leather on American seating furniture. It will be on display in the museum's Stamm Galleries as a part of a new exhibition entitled Colorful Survivors: Embossed Leather from Eighteenth Century Norwich, on view through December 12, 1999.
Colorful Survivors: Embossed Leather from Eighteenth Century Norwich, curated by Lyman Allyn conservator Lance Mayer, features not only the Chippendale chair which is a new addition to the museum's permanent collection, but a Norwich trunk covered with the same unique embossed leather, recently acquired by The Connecticut Historical Society and on loan to Lyman Allyn for this special exhibition. The Norwich trunk is lined with pages of the Norwich Courier dated 1805. Photographs and explanatory text panels are used to tell the story of these two objects and their unique relationship. A companion exhibit, Furniture and Other Decorative Arts in Eastern Connecticut, 1750 - 1800, will feature other excellent pieces from the museum's permanent collection, dating from the 18th century, to augment the Colorful Survivors: Embossed Leather from Eighteenth Century Norwich exhibit and will also remain on view through December 12, 1999. (left: Side chair, Norwich, Connecticut, 1770-1805, possibly by Felix Huntington (1749-1822), Mahogany maple and pine, seat covered with embossed and poIychromed leather imported from the Netherlands; height 38 1/4, width 21, seat depth 17 1/8, seat height 17 1/4 inches, Lyman Allyn Museum of Art at Connecticut College)
The richly colored, embossed leather of the Chippendale chair and the Norwich trunk vividly demonstrate a taste for imported luxury and full-blown Rococo design not commonly associated with their provenance of 18th century Norwich, the style center of southeastern Connecticut' s New London County.
The Chippendale chair acquired by Lyman Allyn has a serpentine crest rail with carved scrolled ears above a pierced "owl's eyes" splat. The over-the-rail upholstered trapezoid seat is embellished with embossed, floral-patterned gilt or Spanish leather secured with oval-headed tacks. The molded Marlborough legs are joined by molded box stretchers. The finish on the mahogany is old, probably the original.
Please see: Colorful Survivors: Embossed Leather from Eighteenth Century Norwich (10/9/99)
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