Three chairs for leather conservation

Brian R. Howard and April H. Berry


Minimally invasive treatments of leather are usually preferred due to the complexity of this material and concern for maintaining proper, ethical procedures for its conservation. This conservative approach may not be adequate when the condition of the artifact requires extensive and somewhat more interventive measures to return it to a semblance of its original intent.

The degree of treatment required for these three seventeenth century chairs, the Spanish Colonial Friar’s Chair, English Back Stool, and Flemish Armchair, was influenced by their severely deteriorated condition, degree of originality, and requests that these pieces be exhibited in gallery and period room settings.

The back stool had been reupholstered several times after it’s original leather seat and setback had been removed: it’s treatment involved a minimally intrusive upholstery system based upon the physical evidence found during conservation treatment.

The Friar’s chair had suffered severe structural damage to both the frame and tooled leather panels. The seat and setback had severe planar distortions, large tears and losses, and old repairs which rendered the piece unsuitable for exhibition.

The Flemish armchair had been donated with the understanding that it would be conserved and placed on exhibition in a restored period room setting. The severely damaged, yet original leather was to be stabilized, reestablished as the primary upholstery, and blend harmoniously with the other furnishings in the collection.

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1995 | St. Paul | Volume 3