The Wallace Collection

Conserving an English armchair

There are relatively few examples of English furniture in the Wallace Collection, but one of the most important is an eighteenth-century, carved-giltwood armchair in the Kentian style. Unfortunately, the state of our armchair deteriorated rapidly over the twentieth century, and it was kept in the reserve galleries for many years.

In the summer of 2016, it was decided to exhibit the chair in our conservation gallery to raise awareness and start a campaign to fund the conservation of this stunning armchair. Thanks to the many donations from members of the public and our current supporters, our Furniture conservator, Jon Slight, and freelance upholstery conservator, Heather Porter, have been able to bring the chair back to its original splendour.

Jon had to clean off the previous layers of gilding before oil-gilding the chair with over 400 sheets of gold, as was originally done. He also carved a replacement for a missing section of the original carving. Heather worked on the back and seat upholstery which has replaced the nineteenth-century patterned velvet that was decayed beyond recognition. The transformation is spectacular – the details of the original carving and design, previously lost, are now visible again for everyone to admire.

When the conservation treatment is finished, the armchair will be back on display in the galleries for the public to enjoy after many decades in the reserve.

This extensive work would not have been possible without the help of the Friends, Benefactors and members of the public who generously supported the conservation appeal.