Armchair, Speaker's Chair

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  • Attributed to: Peter Scott
  • Williamsburg, Virginia
  • ca. 1735
  • Black walnut panels, stiles, rails, moldings, tympana, seat
  • Long term loan from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • 1933-504

Construction: The chair is essentially a box consisting of an internal tulip poplar post-and-rail frame with black walnut paneling and ornaments nailed to the outside and a chair seat and arms attached to the front. The side elements of the inner frame consist of vertical stiles that extend from the floor into the roof assembly, and short horizontal members that are tenoned into the stiles at the top and bottom. These two side units are tied together with mortise-and-tenon-joined horizontal rails: two across the top at front and back, one (now missing) across the middle of the back, and one across the bottom at the back. Nailed to the front edges of the side units are exterior black walnut boards with applied astragal moldings and plinths that form the pilasters on either side of the chair. Raised side panels nailed to the side units fit into rabbets at the front created by the overhang of the pilasters. Corresponding rabbets on the inner faces of the pilasters receive the single board cheeks on the inside of the chair. The interior raised back panel, which is blind-pinned together from the inside, is butt-joined with nails to the rear edges of these cheeks, and a roof board is nailed on at the top. The large cove molding around the interior of the chair back, which appears to be a nineteenth-century alteration, further ties the back to the cheeks. The paneled rear facing of the chair, fabricated during conservation treatment in 1989, is based on surviving physical evidence. The new panel rests in the original rabbets created by the overhang of the back edges of the side panels.

The main cornice molding and frieze around the top are flush-nailed, and the cap molding of the cornice is backed by yellow pine and oak filler strips. The corners of the frieze are mitered. At the top of the chair, panel-sawn roof boards are nailed to the tympanum and cornice. As on the main cornice, the wider molding around the tympana is built up over yellow pine filler strips. The lower edges of the tympana, which are covered with non-original black walnut veneers, rest on the main cornice and are backed by one original black walnut and several modern yellow pine glue blocks.

The seat, arms, and legs are attached to the entire joined and paneled back assembly. The rear seat board extends under the cheeks and is nailed at the rear onto a central rail that ties into the tulip poplar side units and at the rear to a rail that in turn is wrought-nailed to the chair back panel. The arms are tenoned into the pilasters, while the arm supports are similarly joined to the underside of the arms and to the front seat board. The seat board is lobed at the front corners to receive the arm supports. The front seat rail is shaped at the ends and tenoned into the legs, as are the front ends of the side rails. The knee blocks are face-glued to the rails. At the rear, the side seat rails are tenoned into the pilasters and reinforced with interior vertical quarter-round glue blocks that appear to be made of tulip poplar.

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