- Date Made18th century
- Place MadeUSA: New York, New York
- MaterialsWood; Mahogany; White Oak; Red Oak; Maple; Eastern White Pine
- Measurements45" 36 3/4" x 27 1/2"
- Funds donated by Scalamandre, Inc.
- RoomThe John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room
- Accession #1972.0108
This chair has all the characteristics of the standard colonial American easy chair, a form derived from English examples of the 1720s and 1730s, but it expresses them in the full idiom of New York furniture. There are the broad, generous proportions, gently rounded crest and front rails, strongly curved wings ending in cone-shaped arm supports, and highly carved cabriole legs with ball and claw feet of the best New York craftsmanship. Although upholstered chairs of this type had lost favor in England by the 1750s, they remained popular in America until the 1770s.
There are at least three other New York easy chairs of this form. A nearly identical example (Museum of the City of New York) descended in the Van Wagenen family of Cedar Grove, near Poughkeepsie, New York. Winterthur owns a second version, also with acanthus leaves on the knees, but the carving style and the squarish ball and claw feet suggest the work of a different cabinet shop. A third example appears to have yet another style of carving.
The amount of fabric required to cover easy chairs made them expensive household possessions in the eighteenth century. Inventories commonly list them in bedchambers, where they might also be fitted with a chamber pot. The chairs were often upholstered en suite with the bed hangings and window curtains. Although any wealthy individual could own one, the combination of padded upholstery and a protected niche enclosed by the wings made these chairs particularly suitable for sick or elderly people.
Gilbert T. Vincent
1. Miller 1957, no. 43.
2. Downs 1952, no. 84; Bernard & S. Dean Levy, Opulence and Splendor. The New York Chair, 1690–1830 (New York: Bernard & S. Dean Levy, 1984), 21.
3. Among John Singleton Copley's well-known portraits of Bostonians, the two with easy chairs depict Mrs. Michael Gill and Mrs. John Powell, both in old age. In New York City, Abraham Delanoy painted Dr. William Beekman at age eighty-three in a silk damask-upholstered easy chair (New-York Historical Society).