Side chair

c. 1830–c. 1860
Papier-maché, wood, varnish, cane, lacquer, paint, mother-of-pearl, and gilding
Chair: 34 1/4 × 28 1/2 × 24 1/2 in. (87 × 72.39 × 62.23 cm) Cushion: 1 5/8 × 20 1/2 × 18 3/8 in. (4.13 × 52.07 × 46.67 cm)
Decorative Arts and Design
Wendy and Emery Reves Collection - Belle Chambre, Level 3
Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.

General Description

During 19th-century Victorian era England, craftpersons made a wide range of furniture and objects that were decorated with dark lacquer, mother-of-pearl, and paint. Some of the furniture, especially that constructed of papier-mâché, was innovative in terms of its material and shape. The vogue for this decorative style lasted well into the mid-19th century. In 1860, for example, the two main centers of production in England, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, employed between 1,000 and 2,000 craftspersons making this line of furniture and related objects.

The sizable group of 19th-century English papier-mâché furniture is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Reves furniture acquisitions. During the 1960s, when Wendy Reves was building the collection, the ornate Rococo Revival style was poorly regarded by collectors, so the collecting of such pieces was extremely avant-garde on the part of Reves. Working through galleries like La Boutique du Village in Paris and Stair & Co. in London, Reves gathered together more than twenty examples, most of which are now at the Dallas Museum of Art. The collection is especially noteworthy because of its wide variety of forms like this chair.

The flared back of this chair would be difficult to create in wood but could easily be shaped using pliable sheets of paper. Because papier-mâché damages easily when under stress, most of this furniture has wooden or metal supporting elements. Some is even entirely constructed from wood but decorated in papier-mâché. This chair has a wooden seat frame to which the wooden legs and caning are attached.

Adapted from

Dallas Museum of Art, Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 43 and 54.