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Empire Style Sofa

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Unknown Artist

Empire Style Sofa

Wood, upholstery

32 in. x 72 in. x 24 1/2 in. (81.28 cm x 182.88 cm x 62.23 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: Deanery.325
W.2 (Wyndham No.)
Classification: Furnishings and Furniture; Furniture; Couch
Collection: Deanery Collection
Bryn Mawr College, Wyndham Alumnae House, 1st Floor

Four-legged wooden sofa with floral upholstery. All four feet are carved in the shape of a leonine foot topped with feathers. The armrests curve slightly outward and end in small scrolls. The center of the back is slightly raised.

Empire Style is a term used to describe elaborate neoclassicizing furniture created in America and Europe in the 19th century. This furniture often emulated Greek and Roman furniture forms, as well as decorative designs, such as egg-and-dart and Greek-key patterns. The style is called
Empire in reference to the designs published by Napoleon’s chief designers, Charles Percier and Pierre F. L. Fontaine, during the First French Empire.

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • American - Refers to the context of or associated specifically with the modern political entity of the United States of America.
  • carvings - Refers to works executed by cutting a figure or design out of a solid material such as stone or wood. It typically refers to works that are relatively small in size, are part of a larger work, or are not considered art. For large and medium-sized three-dimensional works of art, use the broader term "sculpture" or another appropriate term.
  • Empire - Refers to the style in decorative arts, interior design, architecture, and dress which spread from France to other parts of Europe and the United States during and following the period of Napoleon's French Empire from 1804 to 1814. As in the preceeding Directoire and Consulat periods, the style is characterized by heavy Neoclassical forms and the lavish use of drapery. However, it is distinguished by the use of Napoleanic motifs identified both with the Emperor's power and personal taste, such as the bee, the letter N, eagles, wreaths, and the swan of Empress Josephine.
  • mahogany - Refers to the wood of trees of the genus Swietenia, found in tropical climates, primarily in Mexico, Cuba, Central America, and the West Indies. It varies in color from yellow to a rich red brown, and is valued in furniture-making and sculpture-carving because it is hard, fine-grained, and takes a high polish. Mahogany has a fine, straight grain that takes a high polish. It is dimensionally stable and does not shrink, warp, or swell. The durable, dark reddish-brown wood was imported to Europe in the 18th century where it became popular for furniture, paneling and veneer. Ammonia brings out a rich, red color in mahogany wood. Mahogany is frequently attacked by pinhole borer beetles. Many woods of similar colors have also been called mahoganies, but usually do not have rich color or fine cutting characteristics of the true mahogany wood. However, the related African genus Khaya produces a similar wood. Mahogany was used by Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and the Adam brothers for high quality furniture.
  • sofas - Long, upholstered seating objects with a back and two ends, and primarily used for sitting rather than reclining. Distinct from "couches (reclining furniture)" which have a back support and one end and are primarily used for reclining rather than sitting. The term "sofa" was first used in France at the end of the 17th century as an alternative for canapĂ©. The terms sofa and settee are virtually interchangeable in 20th-century usage but there is a distinction between the two; a sofa is generally completely upholstered.
  • Swietenia - Genus of evergreen trees from tropical America including at least 3 species, which hybridize easily when grown in proximity; thus the species are poorly defined biologically. The trees have a hard wood that turns reddish brown at maturity, valued as timber. The leaflets of each large leaf are arranged like a feather, but there is no terminal leaflet.
  • upholstery - Refers to the fixed soft coverings for furniture, especially seating and reclining furniture. Originally referred to all the textile components of a room supplied by upholsterers, including wall hangings, bed hangings, window curtains, and table coverings.

Bibliography List
The following Bibliography exist for this object:

Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • Milo M. Naeve, Identifying American Furniture (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1998), 30-31.
  • Joseph T. Butler, Field Guide to American Antique Furniture (New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1985), 48-52; 59-61.

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Empire Style Sofa |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=4/10/2021 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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