Plate Xlii Library Table





The sofas are closely related to the chairs, which they frequently were made to match—that is to say, certain of the forms or carved decorations found in the chairs are repeated in the sofas. In the sofas we have practically the same three types seen in the chairs, although in this case they are not so definitely demarked one from another.

The first and most usual type is Sheraton of a form much used both in America and in England at the end of the eighteenth century. This is the design with a straight wooden top rail decorated in some way, wooden curved arms resting on small balusters, wooden front and side rails straight or partly curved, and six or eight legs, always four in front. (Plates XII and XIV.)

In the Phyfe sofas of this group the top rail of the back is panelled, usually into three rectangular panels. These panels are carved with typical ornament—drapery swags, "thunderbolts/' wheat, or fluting—and are surrounded with one or two half-round fillet mouldings. The top edges

of the arms which continue the curve of the back are reeded and end in a slight scroll which turns under and rests upon a small baluster. The shaft of this little baluster is reeded and the urn-shaped member at its base carved with leaf ornament. The arms in most of these sofas curve slightly out, then in, which gives them an inviting air. Some, however, come straight forward at right angles to the back.

The front and side rails of the seat, which form a continuous frame, are reeded. In the straight-armed sofas, the front rail of the seat is straight and covered by the upholstery; in those with curved arms, the front rail of the seat is reeded, not covered by upholstery, and joins the side rail on a wide curve, on which the baluster of the arm is set at an angle. The short legs, too, are reeded and are usually turned to a profile with a slight entasis. The bottom member of the leg is the slightly bulging turning.

These sofas are upholstered, arms, back, and seat, or are caned. The main variations of this type are those resulting from combinations of ornament in the back panels. There are examples of all of these variations, where the front seat rail is covered with upholstery.

Unlike chairs of the second type, that showing Directoire influence, the sofas of this second group are few and far between. The most striking example is that with twin lyres in the arms shown in Plate XV. Here are seen several innovations. The top is of figured mahogany in one long narrow panel. From the back a short but finely sweeping curve runs out and joins that of the arms. The arms in profile resemble the lyre-back chair, with plain top panel and the two lyres, side by side, ajouré, fill the space below. The lines of the arms sweep down into that of the seat rail. The legs are made up of scrolls in cornucopia form. Reeding preponderates in the decoration, though a little fine carving occurs on the lyres. The back and seat are upholstered.

Much the same lines of seat, arms, and back occur in the sofa in Plate XVI. Here three plain panels fill the top rail, while arms, seat, and back are upholstered. In the legs, however, is seen a decided Empire touch, made up as they are of lion's foot and eagle's wing. This is one of the most graceful and distinguished of Phyfe sofas.

We know of no sofas or settees carrying out literally the lines of the chairs of the second type. They may not have seemed desirable for practical reasons, since the concave legs on the chairs, if repeated in the centre of a sofa, would project in front of the seat rail and interfere with comfortable use. These other two solutions are much better studied than such a chair-back settee would have been.

The third type, Empire in character, is represented by two treatments of the same scheme. In the splendid drawing-room suite from which our cane-seated Empire chair comes is the handsome sofa shown in Plate XVII. In this, the upper portion reflects the general Directoire lines of the preceding two sofas, but the legs are treated with the crossed reverse curves, brass lions' heads at their crossing and brass lions' feet at their base. The legs and arms are reeded and the back and arm panels are carved with laurel branches and with crossed cornucopise. The back, arms, and seat are caned and loose cushions were tied over them. The proportions and general lines are very fine, the only point which can be criticized being the junction between the curved legs and the front rail. This remarkable sofa is still in the possession of the family for which it was made and is part of a suite ^comprising also side chairs, armchairs, footstools, and console tables. The little settee shown in Plate XXIII is a single treatment of the crossed curved legs whose proportions are rendered heavier for support. The carved panels of the back, contracted into different proportions from those usually found, are all from designs found in the sofas of the first type. The reeded seat rails of this and the preceding piece are straight.

These sofas show the approach of the chair-maker to the more ambitious problem and indicate clearly how much more than a chair-maker Phyfe was. The relationship which they bear to the chairs is proper, but the new problem is met on its own ground and advantage taken of all its possibilities. In construction great care is shown, the seat supports underneath the caning are gently curved to allow for the elasticity of the cane, and these supports are mortised into a dove-tailed groove in the seat rail, a refinement of construction which renders easily distinguishable Phyfe's work from good reproduction.

From these sofas and chairs we may be able to draw some conclusions as to their chronology. In those of the Sheraton type the carved panel details are the drapery swags, thunderbolts, wheat ears, and fluting. In the most characteristic Empire chairs and sofas we find the laurel used practically always, combined with cornucopise panels. These latter details probably succeed the War of 1812 when patriotic


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