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Discovery: “Fully Elastic Armchair”
Discovery: "Fully Elastic Armchair"

Discovery: “Fully Elastic Armchair”
Samuel Gragg (1772-1855)
Boston, MA, circa 1810
Painted wood
H. 33-3/4, SH. 19-7/8 in.
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

Samuel Gragg's elastic chair is an icon of bentwood furniture design. Curving both vertically and horizontally, the design conforms to the shape of the human body. Undoubtedly, Gragg's training as a Windsor chairmaker, and possibly his exposure to shipbuilding in Boston, informed his experiments in steam bending wood. Gragg achieved an imaginative design that was both aesthetically pleasing and superior to other neoclassical chairs being produced in America and Europe at the time; he patented the process in 1808.

Recently acquired by the Carnegie Museum of Art, this armchair is one of only two known to survive; a handful of side chairs are also known. Considering its age and delicate appearance, the armchair is in remarkably sound structural condition and retains the majority of its original painted surface and pictorial designs.

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