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George III Decorated Sofa & Set of Four Armchairs

By Thomas Sheraton, read more.

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About this piece

In the Manner of Thomas Sheraton

England, circa 1800

A truly wonderful large English late 18th Century period breakfront original ebonised, lined and decorated sofa with buttoned squab cushion, with a light and delicately realised neo-classicism typical of Sheraton's graceful forms, painted in the japanning of the period in black with gold rosettes and fans.

The set of four armchairs, japanned with corresponding rosette and fan top rail pediment decoration including central urn with swags, the rectangular backs leading into curving arms, with buttoned seat squab cushions above tapering legs.

The fan is a decorative motif typical of Sheraton (see image 5 which shows a Bookcase with Secretaire, from the 'Cabinet & Upholsterer's Drawing Book' 1793), where the author explains that "the pediment is simply a segment of a circle and can be cut in the form of a fan."

The suite's arms all rest upon pillars, a style again associated with Sheraton designs, while the legs are all tapering and plainly turned, not reeded, as is usual upon his sofas. Sheraton was also the exponent of the square back, based on straight lines and squared corners, and as with the chairs in particular, a rectangular frame holds four slender uprights (Sheraton never goes beyond five) with a toprail broken by a raised central portion, the arms high up on the back allowing them to sweep down with an easy curve, all again typical compositional elements of his designs.

The Archery iconography used on the sofa has interesting period resonance. The Royal Toxophilite Society was founded in 1781 by Sir Ashton Lever with the Prince of Wales, the future King George IV as its patron. Archery had fallen into decline during the Puritanism that followed Cromwell's reign. However it had a saviour in George IV who both of as Prince of Wales and as King was a keen Archer and revived the sport once more in England. King George IV was also the patron of the Royal Kentish Bowmen and Royal British Bowmen.

This royal seal of approval undoubtedly gave added impetus to the popularity of archery. His presentation of trophies to these societies and occasional presence gave added cachet to the sport. The King laid down the basis of modern archery as far as target colours and points and York rounds were concerned. Sheraton himself was also alive to the aesthetic possibilities of the arrow, which contains strong clear lines and diagonals, and includes the motif in a sofa design (please see image 6 found on p.318 Cabinet & Upholsterer's Drawing Book' 1793)

Often regarded as the last of the Golden Age of 18th Century English Designers, it is more for Sheraton's drawings and books that his fame chiefly rests, since his actual cabinet-making output was very small and from 1793 onwards he seems to have stopped this side of the business completely. It is doubtful that he ever executed many of his designs and that most of the furniture attributed to him was built and interpreted by others after the drawings in his books. As he explains, the designs were a guide and were open to the skill levels and subsequent interpretations of those reading and working from them. As he says on page 318 "if the toprail be thought to have too much work (image 6) it can be finished in a straight line" an idea which seems to have been taken on board by the makers of the suite


Thomas Sheraton, Cabinet & Upholsterer's Drawing Book, published 1793


H 91.5cm x W 185.5cm x D 79cm
H 36" x W 73" x D 31"

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