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In this chair, the complexities inherent in assembling a three-post stool were multiplied. The maker had to work his way around the frame, gradually driving together three intersecting joints without causing any to bind while simultaneously joining the arms to the crest rail and the two front posts. Exactly how he accomplished this task is unclear, but the long, tapered turnings at the front of the arms suggest that the maker began by assembling the entire back with its crest rail and diagonal struts no mean feat in and of itself.

He then could have driven the rear tenons of the arms completely into the crest rail and proceeded to assemble the seat frame and stretchers, while forcing the front tenons of the arms into the posts. Plotting the locations of the stretchers was another problem.

Holland vs the Netherlands

The maker of the chair illustrated in figure 12 set them at different heights. This provided structural integrity but denied bilateral symmetry. While both side stretchers enter their respective front posts at about the same level, they enter the rear post one above the other. The Welsh Tradition Most of the British board-seated, turned chairs that survive have histories of ownership in Wales. Some have seat frames constructed with rectangular tenons intersected by round tenons, whereas others have seat rails with intersecting large and small round tenons fig.

Both types of joints appear in chairs that are virtually identical, so no chronological or developmental priority may be assigned to either variant. The chairs illustrated in figures 16 and 17 are relatively plain, having straight rear posts and heavy turned horizontal crest rails.

The Middle Ages. Part 3

Both have two arms set at different angles on each side and spindles between the seat rails and the stretchers. An important stylistic and structural detail is the use of turned ledges on the rear post, which serve as seats for the diagonal struts supporting the crest of each chair. The vigorous turnings, including the heavy urns on the front posts, are squarely in the mannerist design tradition, and it is difficult to believe that such objects could have been made in Wales much before These chairs also have applied buttons of various forms and punchwork in some moldings.

They continue the practice of placing the three stretchers at different levels, without reference to bilateral symmetry. These chairs represent a standard model. Other versions feature complex superstructures that were labor-intensive, expensive options.

Set of bed posts

The most elaborate chairs were preserved as relics of departed patriarchs and matriarchs. Its understructure is not all that different from those of the previous Welsh examples, but its crest is ornamented with a superimposed cage of interlocked posts, rails, and spindles.

Connected to this cage are two lateral structures that resemble the wings or cheeks of early-eighteenth-century easy chairs. This elaborate framework may have been draped in winter. Features not previously encountered include gouge carving on the flanges of turnings and free rings made from the same piece of wood as the spindles they surround. The multiple bands on the posts and the crest rail appear on some of the chairs in Men Shoveling Chairs fig. The extraordinarily complex fabrication and assembly problems posed by these Welsh chairs suggest that they may be earlier than some related stools.

Although the chairs may have provided greater comfort, their backs forced the user to sit upright, leaving little room for relaxation. As long as the principal support for the back rail was an extension of the rear leg, this posture was difficult to avoid. To create layback, makers began using a large horizontal rail immediately above the seat.

This allowed them to set the back posts at an angle, providing additional comfort for the sitter. As the chair illustrated in figure 19 suggests, this design often made construction more complex. The maker of this example probably began by assembling the seat frame using the interlocking round-tenon system described above.

Then he began driving the joints connecting the lower arms to the front posts and large horizontal rail, the diagonal struts to the low rear post and large horizontal rail, and the large horizontal rail to the low rear posts. The maker performed this work gradually and sequentially to keep the joints from binding. Having completed the undercarriage, he could begin installing the back.

He drove the arms into the upper back posts, inserted the big back spindles into the frame, maneuvered the back posts and spindles into their mortises in the large horizontal rail, and forced the front tenons of the arms into their mortises in the front posts.

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The high degree of skill required to bore the mortises of this chair accurately and to assemble its frame attest to the sophistication of the board-seat design tradition. The diagonal struts supporting the large crest rail of the armchair illustrated in figure 18 feature bilaterally symmetrical balusters with a thin reel at the waist, a turning sequence repeated on the lower back pillars of a related chair fig.

Although the chair illustrated in figure 20 has two horizontal rails above the seat, its back is framed with a series of medium-weight spindles rather than two large outer posts. The two rails are nearly identical in size and diameter, and the superstructure with cheeks or wings is higher relative to the seat and the back than that of the chair in figure The maker chose to retain a primary and secondary pair of arms, but he set one pair between the structural rail and the front posts and the other between the crest rail and the front posts.

Consequently, both pairs of arms are set at the same angle. Embellishments on the chair illustrated in figure 20 include free rings, applied buttons, and gougework.

The Middle Ages. Part 3

With its pronounced urns and balusters, the turned ornament of this example has stronger renaissance overtones than that of the chair shown in figure Three-post chairs with high superstructures tend to tip over if the sitter shifts too much weight to either side. At some point, makers introduced a four-post plan.

A striking example of the latter form has a history of ownership in Tregib, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire fig. Like all of the seating in this group, the chair illustrated in figure 21 has little layback despite having a low structural rail mounted just above the seat. The front posts of these chairs also lack pommels, or handgrips, a feature found on many other examples of board-seat furniture. The chair illustrated in figure 21 deviates from the group in having a back framed with heavy outer posts rather than several medium-size spindles. The only renaissance turnings are the heavy urns on the front posts and a few minor ball-and-reel sequences.

The simple but distinctive great chair illustrated in figure 23 was probably made for the church of St. Marnarch in Lanreath, Cornwall. Unlike most turned great chairs, this example has posts braced by stretchers set just below the seat rails rather than near the floor.


The turnings of this chair relate directly to those on two similar American examples. Pertinent elements include the slightly indented ball turning on the front and rear posts and a barrel-like turning on the back spindles with indented ends and a central incised band. Marnarch example represent the work of two different makers. One descended in the Foote family of Wethersfield, Connecticut figs.

The earliest member of the Foote family was a turner named Nathaniel ca. At this time, it is impossible to determine if the makers of the Foote and Strycker chairs trained in the same regional tradition that produced the St. Marnarch chair and other related board-seat forms. The backs of the American examples have greater layback fig. Marnarch chair, although still based almost entirely in the renaissance tradition. A straight-post chair in the same style as the Foote and Strycker examples suggests how this board-seated tradition may have evolved in America fig. Although it has turned ornament similar to that on the preceding examples figs.

This suggests that the same shops that made chairs with such rails also produced seating without them.

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Skeptics have decried these histories for years, partly because other Pilgrim provenances have proven specious and partly because of the existence of replicas made over the years to satisfy the cult of ancestor worship surrounding the Pilgrims. Many Pilgrim descendants owned or own artifacts that reputedly arrived on the Mayflower , but most of these objects were first owned by later generations of the families in question.

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The chairs may, however, represent the work of an immigrant craftsman. If that is true, then their histories of ownership by immigrant Pilgrim patriarchs are probably correct. Several British and Netherlandish chairs can be interpreted as antecedents or cognates for the Bradford, Brewster, and Standish seating. The woodworking tradition encompassing the Plymouth chairs probably emanated from London, where Dutch influence was strong. The Ridley chair fig. A chair that reputedly belonged to Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus ca. He visited England repeatedly between and and was often the guest of Sir Thomas More — The Erasmus chair is one of the few English four-post examples without a low structural back rail that can be associated with southeastern England.

Another English chair has features rarely seen outside the Plymouth group fig. Its front and back posts are canted, but all of its horizontal components remain parallel to the floor fig.