Chair Amie

For a writer of historical(-ish) fiction, one of the joys of research has been collecting prints from (and when I can find them, full editions of) an early 19th century English publication called the Repository of Arts and Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, published by one Rudolf Ackermann between 1809 and 1829…and usually known for short as Ackermann’s Repository. A number of prints were included in each issue, detailing everything from fashions to famous houses and locations to furniture and other items of British manufacture…some of which are quite wonderful. In the “wonderful” category, here, for your viewing pleasure, is Pocock’s Reclining Patent Chair, from the March 1813 issue.

The accompanying text reads: Our engraving this month represents an elegant fashionable fauteuil chair, upon Messrs. Pocock’s patent reclining principle, to incline the back to any position, with double reclining footstools, which slide from under the chair to extend it when the back is reclined to the length of a couch. A reading-desk is attached to the side, and contrived to swing round in front of the chair. The whole is designed with classical taste, in the present improved fashion of modern furniture, by the ingenious inventors, Messrs. Pocock’s, of Southampton-street, Covent-Garden.

I did a little research, and it seems that the Pocock company specialized in furniture for invalids. But in this case they put their know-how into a more mainstream piece of furniture…and oh, what a piece!

The foot rest is retractable, probably tied in to the mechanism that reclines the back, so that the chair doesn’t necessarily take up all that much space…but the ornamentation! Those winged, pot-bellied lions in front are adorable…and the swiveling reading lectern (with attached oil lamp, it appears) is a delight–if a tad precarious-looking, perched as it is on the serpent’s coils. I wonder if any of these were actually built and sold by Messrs. Pocock?

Well, I know what I want for my birthday this year. 😉

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Chair Amie — 7 Comments

  1. Ah — Victorian Gothic revival design united with design for the invalid or languid scholar.

    The piece doesn ‘t look all that comfortable does it?

    Our house’s den on MD’s Eastern Shore came stocked with a monster couch with that same leather flocking, and it was impossible to actually sit on. It was slippery, unyielding at all the wrong angles, and moreover one was swallowed, making it impossible to actually, you know sit.

  2. Ha! This kind of upholstery not only swallows and / or throws off users, it does the same with blankets, afghans, etc. — in my experience. But all smooth leather upholstery may not be the same, surely?

    • Meaning just my experience with old tuftedsofas in my grandmother’s basement, to what was in the attic, to that really smooth, but still tufted leather one in C’town. What they all had in common was unyielding stuffing within the ‘tufts’ — which in the 19th century often was horse hair. Tufted furniture of these days is different, as we see in car seats, for instance.

  3. This is actually pre-Victorian, perhaps more influenced by the Napoleonic passion for classical imagery than the Gothic (which would be making an appearance in Ackermann’s furniture prints shortly.) I wonder if any of these were ever actually made–the furniture and fashion images in Ackermann’s were often more representations of good (read “fashionable”) taste than of physical items.

    Even so, I STILL want one.

    • O my! Yah, that Egyptian excursion of Napoleon’s set the realm of design agog . so-called Egyptian Revival. The French interpretation was often delightful — light and airy — but it too could lead to that weighed-down dream of monumental that I, correctly or not, tend to associate with the more tasteless cohorts of mid-Victoriana, when, after the final and decisive defeat of France, Britain became undisputed global empire of the age.