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H6862 Chair, owned by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, rose mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum) / Casuarina / Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata) / modern upholstery of eastern grey kangaroo fur, gothic style, attributed makers John Webster (carver) / William Temple (cabinet maker), New South Wales, Austra. Click to enlarge.

Armchair owned by Governor Lachlan Macquarie

Made by Webster, John in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1820-1821.
The 'Macquarie Chair' is undeniably the most important example of early colonial furniture in the MAAS collection. Fortuitously it is also a chair we know much about. One of a pair made for Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales 1810-1822, and his wife Elizabeth, it was crafted by convicts in 1820-21. The companion chair is in the collection of Macquarie University. A third, similarly-styled, gothic revival armchair is in St James Church, Sydney; it is the plaque on this chair identifying its makers as John Webster and William Temple that has enabled the attribution of the two Macquarie chairs.

Made of Australian rose mahogany, a NSW timber felled extensively during the Macquarie period, red cedar, Casuarina and with replacement eastern grey kangaroo fur upholstery (1982), the chair bears the Macquarie crest of a raised dagger as its central finial and was crafted by convicts William Temple (1779-1839) and John Webster (1798-1842). Temple, a 'carpenter and joiner', was transported to NSW in 1813 and worked in the government lumber yard in Sydney and with the cabinetmaker Lawrence Butler (1750?-1820). Temple was granted a conditional pardon by Macquarie in November 1821 having worked for Macquarie at Government House. John Webster, a carver and gilder, was transported to NSW, arriving on 7 August 1820. Governor Macquarie must have set him to work on the carving of the chairs soon after he arrived in the colony, for they were completed by the time the Macquaries returned to Scotland in early 1822. Webster was also granted a conditional pardon in November 1821. It is possible that both pardons were associated with the completion of the chairs. The chairs may in fact be the "2 large armchairs" listed in an inventory of the contents of Government House, Sydney in March 1821.

With their carved Gothic detail and formal vice-regal proportions the chairs were probably made for the Macquaries' official rather than personal use. Their taste for the Gothic style, fashionable in late 18th -century England, is reflected in a number of buildings the Macquaries erected including the Government House stables (now the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music). The relatively sophisticated styling of the chairs may also indicate the reference by Webster and Temple to George Smith's 'A collection of designs for household furniture and interior decoration', a highly influential pattern book published in England in 1808. Smith's publication shows several chairs with Gothic detailing similar to the Macquarie armchairs.

Both chairs have also shared a well-travelled past. When the Macquaries returned to the Isle of Mull, Scotland, in February 1822 they took the chairs with them. Through the Macquarie's son, Lachlan, they passed by descent, to Rowland and Archibald Macquarie who emigrated to Canada in the 1890s with the chairs. The MAAS chair was lent to the Vancouver Museum by a "Mrs R Macquarie [sic]" in about 1937 but, after lengthy negotiations, was donated to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in 1961. Almost 140 years after it had left Australia the chair's final resting place was the city of its origin!

Anne Watson
Curator

Summary

Object No.

H6862

Object Statement

Chair, owned by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, rose mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum) / Casuarina / Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata) / modern upholstery of eastern grey kangaroo fur, gothic style, attributed makers John Webster (carver) / William Temple (cabinet maker), New South Wales, Australia, 1820-1821

Physical Description

Armchair in gothic style. The back is carved in rose mahogany with a low trefoil ogee cusped arch, embellished with carved crockets and surmounted in the centre with a carved finial of a clenched dirk representing the Macquarie crest. The back, upholstered in eastern grey kangaroo fur, is set over a bead and cavetto moulded rail with a gallery of four pierced quatrefoil inset with escutcheon. The four legs of square section, set slightly splayed, carved with arched gothic cavetto moulded fretwork with inset panels of veneered Casuarina sp. The rails similarly made terminating at the uprights with quatrefoils set in square cavetto moulded panels inset with escutcheons. The rear posts terminate with spired crocketed finials, the front posts with square reverse ogee mouldings; the tops inlaid with quatrefoils of casuarina sp. The arms formed of two counterpoised arcs forming a waisted gallery on each arm of two pierced quatrefoils inset with escutcheons. The lower arm sections upholstered with eastern grey kangaroo fur. The upper arms bevelled. The woodwork french polished over wax.

Dimensions

Height

1310 mm

Width

725 mm

Depth

584 mm

Weight

24 kg

Production

Notes

Made for Major-General Macquarie in 1821. (Governor Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of NSW January 1810 to December 1821). The chair was originally upholstered with red kangaroo fur, then in 1982, R. & R. Neal Upholstery of Sydney were commissioned by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences to reupholster the chair with eastern grey kangaroo fur.

Cabinet maker William Temple, cabinet maker (1779-1839), was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment at Lincoln, England in March 1813. He arrived at Sydney on the 'General Hewitt' in February 1814. Worked for Governor Macquarie for 1.5 years at Government House. Was granted a pardon by Macquarie in November 1821. In the 1828 Census he was listed as a carpenter residing in Parramatta.

Carver and guilder John Webster (1798-1842) was convicted at the Old Bailey in Oct 1819 and sentenced to 14 years transportation. He arrived at Sydney on the 'Mangles' in August 1820. He was also pardoned by Governor Macquarie in November 1821. In the 1828 Census he was listed as a carver and guilder at Castlereagh Street.

History

Used

Vancouver City Museum c.1937-1961

Notes

The chair was possibly commissioned by Governor Macquarie for the drawing room of Government House. It is assumed that upon his retirement, he took the chair back to his estate on the Island of Mull in Scotland. It then passed through the widow of Governor Macquarie's son, Lachlan Macquarie to Lieutenant Colonel Gardyne. It was given by Colonel Gardyne to Governor Macquarie's nephew, Captain Charles Macquarie, who himself had 2 sons. One of these sons migrated to Canada, taking this chair with him. His widow placed the chair on loan with the Vancouver City Museum in about 1937. In 1959 the Vancouver City Museum approached the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) in Sydney. The transfer to MAAS took place in 1961.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of the Vancouver City Museum, Canada, 1961

Acquisition Date

10 July 1961

Cite this Object

Harvard

Armchair owned by Governor Lachlan Macquarie 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 July 2020, <https://ma.as/246808>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/246808 |title=Armchair owned by Governor Lachlan Macquarie |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=8 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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