Upholstery Inquisition! (upholstery nerds only)

While vacationing in Venice recently, I had the opportunity to take the Secret Itineraries tour at the Doge’s Palace.  Our guide kept up a rather break-neck speed, but I managed to snap a few interesting photos of some of the chairs furnishing these back hallways and chambers. This post will feature a type of chair displayed in Casanova’s cell and in the chamber of the Supreme Council of inquisitors, a subset of the Venetian Council of Ten, who were in charge of higher level justice in the Republic of Venice.

1 casanova

This photo shows the chair in Casanova’s cell. You can see what remains of the silk pile on the heavy red velvet used to upholster this set. Nice carving detail at the lower front of the seat.

2 SCC Inside Back Detail

Here you can see that the chair was designed to have two different sizes of coordinated nail head – it’s not a feature I’ve often come across, and I really like that detail!

3 SCC Seat Detail

Notice how harmonious the variations in decorative nail spacing are? That took some thought!

4 SCC Inside Arm Detail

A really special detail, and highly unlike modern upholstery practice: Rather than tuck away and hiding the extra fabric that results when you make the release cuts to wrap around the show wood arm,  the designer used this space for a little flourish – covering the raw edges with trim and applying FIVE nails!

5 SCC Seat Back Detail

Note that the chairs were designed with a much simpler and presumably less expensive fabric on the outside back. I suspect that this fabric once was a better color match to the vibrant red color of the silk velvet, but I think that they still complement each other. Hand sewn prick stitches are just visible on the the hem of the skirt. You can see that they used a similar tab treatment as above on the release cuts for the seat.

6 SCC Handstitching Detail Outside Back

Hand stitching joining the outside back to the trim. The inside back is also stitched to trim (you can see it in the first photo) and both are likely tacked to the bottom of the frame. They didn’t waste any of this velvet!

7 SCC Front Apron Detail

I think it is interesting that the skirt was secured on the front corners in this way – not sure why the trim was cut at the top. I think the velvet broke along the edge of the frame from wear and tear . This photo also gives a good feel for the intense red of the velvet!