A Beautiful Ruin

I’ve been trying to find out about an old armchair in our stores. It appears to be a genuine 17th Century chair, but re-upholstered in the 19th Century. Its status as a museum object is thus severely compromised. A consultant once said:

“This is an English chair, c. 1695, very high quality frame, with Victorian upholstery, feet cut and castors added.”

However, it is very similar to furniture from the Royal Palaces now at Knole in Kent; I showed photos on a study visit there to see if anyone knew more about it, or could comment further. Similar eagles on the chairs at Knole refer to Mary of Modena’ s marriage to James II. John Bowes bought an ‘easy chair’ in London in 1840, the bill is in  the County Record Office, when he was re-furnishing his home of Streatlam Castle, and I wonder if this is the one? He was an old fashioned guy who liked to keep things in the old style. Whatever it is, it is a beautiful ruin, but it may have some documentary interest. This is why museums keep some things in stores, for study and reference purposes, without showing them!

Howard Coutts, Keeper of Ceramics, The Bowes Museum

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