JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. 271 to 278)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. 271 to 278)

HISTORIC UPHOLSTERY: A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON TREATMENT

ELIZABETH LAHIKAINEN



2 HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

Much of the physical evidence retained by the upholstered object is fragmentary. A yarn or even just a fiber of the original finish fabric embedded under an old tack can confirm the fiber content and indicate a color and possibly the quality of the original cover. Due to the fragile nature of this type of evidence, it is easily obliterated during repair or even aggressive examination. A good example of historical evidence found on 18th-century seating furniture is the shape and pattern of holes in the rails. Holes that have a square shape and no ferrous staining were probably made by the brass shanks of decorative nails. If the decorative nails are reapplied with each reupholstery, as is often the case, the original evidence of the nailing pattern is camouflaged by numerous holes. Once several generations of nails have been applied, the rails themselves begin to suffer loss. Repair or partial replacement is often the solution. As the deteriorated areas are cut away, the historical evidence is lost forever along with the original materials.

Decades and, in some cases, centuries of disposing of secondary materials during repair and reupholstery have resulted in a great deal of loss of original material and historical evidence. Seating furniture especially suffers from extensive repair and replacements due to the time-honored practices of restoration and reupholstery. Out of necessity the conservation community has responded by developing new methods of analysis and treatment that are both passive in regard to original materials and respectful of historical knowledge and materials.


Copyright 1993 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works