Sunday, September 27, 2015

Finding Fabric for the Schuyler's Fashionable Furniture

by Rebecca Kurtz
The Best Parlor in its furnished state

In last week’s blog, we discussed the restoration of the papier-mache ceiling in the Best Parlor, the most formal room in Schuyler Mansion. Considering that the primary purpose of this parlor was once to advertise the Schuyler family’s wealth, it now appears astonishingly unfurnished. The suite of furniture belonging in the Best Parlor, which includes eight chairs and a settee, has been displayed to visitors in previous years. The reason for its absence this year is it is being reupholstered with a fabric that is more accurate to the way it appeared in the eighteenth century.

The suite of furniture that occupied the Best Parlor is in the Sheraton Style (also called ‘Hepplewhite’ for the furniture designer who put out a catalogue on the style) which is a neoclassical style of furniture defined by clean, straight lines, lattice work,
A Sheraton style chair
tapered legs, and fluting. The chairs and settee are original pieces of furniture that once belonged to Philip and Catherine Schuyler. They were last upholstered in 1979. However, Deborah Trupin, the textile conservator at Peebles Island State Resource Center from 1980-July 2015, felt that the fabric was not historically accurate.

Kirsten Schoonmaker, an intern in Deborah Trupin's textile lab during the Fall of 2014 and Winter of 2015 set about deconstructing the chair seat covers to try and find evidence of previous upholstery fabric, as well as original padding, undercovers, and upholstery tacks. After many of the chair seat and arm covers had been deconstructed, a 1” by 1.5” piece of 1700’s fabric was finally discovered on the arm pads. When examined under a microscope, it was revealed that the threads found were silk and had been woven in different ways to create a pattern. The fabric was an unblemished yellow, since it remained in a protected area on the underside of the arm pad.

Kirsten studied eighteenth century paintings and furniture design books that showed examples of the style of chair in Schuyler Mansion's collection to determine the correct seat and back profiles. The new profile created for the chairs is significantly different from the one previously on display at Schuyler Mansion.
The Best Parlor with furniture in the mid-twentieth century

The conservators and curator traveled to New York City to look at available fabrics for recovering the chairs and settee. Unable to find a true eighteenth century fabric, the three found the best match at a factory in Gainesborough, England. The fabric found there, a neoclassical motif that precisely fits on both the seat and the shield back of the chair, blends with the neoclassical elements of the Sheraton Style of the furniture. Currently, David Bayne, a furniture conservator at Peebles Island, is hoping to fund an intern who can work on the suite of furniture, cleaning it throughout the winter of 2015-2016. We plan to return the finished chairs and settee to the mansion during the 2016 season so the Best Parlor can once again be enjoyed in its fully furnished splendor. 

No comments:

Post a Comment