An Aesthetic Movement Ebonised & Upholstered Sofa by Gillows c.1881

Origin: English
Period Late Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1881
Height: 36.5” or 19” at seat with cushion
Width: 74”
Depth: 28” (all at extremities)

The ebonised three seater sofa upholstered in black and white diagonal striped cotton, each rear leg stamped ‘Gillow 11569’ and Gillow’ respectively, dating the piece to c.1881, the carcass having a straight back with show-rail baluster turnings, to a shaped front with one corner being cut out, to open arms, the ebonised turned supports and legs having gilt highlights, on the original brass castors, survives from the Aesthetic Period of late nineteenth century England.
The sofa is in good condition with the relatively recent upholstery in clean order. The carving is all-present with no losses and the ebonisation is in mainly sound order with expected areas of wear in the right places. She runs freely on the castors and proves very comfortable.

The aesthetic movement can be seen as the bridge to the arts and crafts style. It often had formalised, restrained ornamentation, and was heavily influenced by Japanese decoration, knowledge of which flowed to the West in the nineteenth century through oriental imports. It rebelled against the lavish ornamentation and over-embellishment of the high Victorian period, and sought a purer, more precise level of expression.

Gillows might not be as prestigious a name in English furniture as Chippendale, Hepplewhite or Sheraton, but the firm, based in Lancaster, outlasted all of them. The history of Gillows, from the early eighteenth century to the early twentieth, encapsulates the history of English furniture and its manufacture. Robert Gillow began making furniture around 1730, some 20 years before Thomas Chippendale, and developed first a national and then an international reputation as a supplier of quality furniture to the upper middle classes, the landed gentry, and the aristocracy. The company won commissions to furnish and decorate public buildings in Australia, South Africa, India, Russia, Germany, France and the U.S., and it also executed Pugin’s designs for London’s Palace of Westminster from 1840. Severe strain on company finances ensued and led to a loose association with Waring of Liverpool from 1897. In 1903, Waring took over Gillows, and Waring & Gillow was established.

The leg stamp of 11569 correlates to the year of 1881, when the firm started with the making number of 10000.

A superb quality frame and a rather bonkers fabric makes this piece hard not to notice.