Probably French. Late Eighteenth Century.


Chairs: Height: 36 1/2" (92.7 cm); Width: 18" (45.7 cm); Depth: 16 1/2" (41.9 cm); Height of seat: 18" (45.7 cm). Canapé: Height: 39 1/2" (100.3 cm); Width: 54" (137.2 cm); Depth: 22" (55.9 cm); Height of seat: 18 1/2" (47 cm).

Of carved walnut or fruitwood painted in various shades of green with pink and mauve detailing. The curved arched back formed as two laurel boughs tied at the center with back splat formed as fasces. The conforming settee curved arched back formed as two laurel boughs tied at the center from which two laurel carved arms emerge. The back enclosing three splats formed as fasces. The rectangular upholstered leather detachable seat rests upon a reeded frieze with ribbon ties. The chairs raised on four tapering reed ribbon tied legs, and the settee with six conforming legs. Four chairs old but of a later date.

These remarkable chairs and canapé are distinguished by their extensive use of Roman fasces decoration, that is, each chair back is centered by bound reeds as the splat, while the seat rail and all four legs are carved using the same theme. It is tempting to attribute this unusual and extensive conceit to a celebration of the French Revolution. The fasces, along with the Phrygian cap, were the principle symbol of the revolution. Co-opted from ancient Rome, the fasces represent a tightly bound bundle of birch rods indicating the unbreakable strength of the collective, as opposed to the fragility of a single rod. Thus, it means that power belongs to the people as a whole. The laurel wreath, which forms the outer rail of each chair and the canapé’s back, is also borrowed from ancient Rome, and is associated with victory. 

The lightness and fine execution of the chairs and canapé tend to confirm that they were a French production and their delightful palette of colors, which includes three subtle shades of green, mauve and yellow ochre, has parallels in decoration of the late Louis XVI period. 

The carver of this suite has opted to sculpt the decoration directly into the wood, a method more typically seen in France. This is opposed to Italian works, where carvers tended to adopt a broader approach to the modeling and would apply details into thickly coated gesso surfaces. This is a less time-consuming technique, but it inevitably lacks the sharpness of execution evident in the present pieces.

Chairs: Height: 36 1/2″ (92.7 cm); Width: 18″ (45.7 cm); Depth: 16 1/2″ (41.9 cm); Height of seat: 18″ (45.7 cm).
Canapé: Height: 39 1/2″ (100.3 cm); Width: 54″ (137.2 cm); Depth: 22″ (55.9 cm); Height of seat: 18 1/2″ (47 cm).

Full research report available on request.