Artist/maker unknown, French

Made in Paris, France, Europe

c. 1825-1835

Elm, purpleheart

31 5/16 x 21 x 21 1/2 inches (79.6 x 53.3 x 54.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 291, European Art 1500-1850, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Made around 1830, this armchair is an adaptation of a style that had been popular since the reign of Napoleon (1799-1815), when chairs en gondole, so named for their backs curved like the prows of gondolas, were made for both of his wives, Josephine and Marie Louise. Swans, seen on the arms of this chair, had been adopted by Josephine as her emblem and continued to ornament furniture long after her divorce from Napoleon in 1809. Similarly, classical motifs like the Greek key design on the seat rail and the anthemia on the swans' breasts, which were common on furniture of the Napoleonic era, remained popular well into the 1830s. This armchair is made of elm, a wood widely used in French furniture during the Napoleonic wars, when British blockades of French ports necessitated the choice of domestic rather than imported woods. Domestic woods remained fashionable even after Napoleon's defeat in 1815, with imported woods, like the purpleheart inlay seen here, generally used only for decorative details. The chair is one of a large group of French elmwood furniture of this period assembled by the Philadelphia collector Henry P. McIlhenny and bequeathed to the Museum in 1986. Julia H. M. Smith, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 150.

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