Label

Don't let the bold façade of this leather-covered couch fool you. What appears to be a solid piece of furniture is in fact an eighteenth-century sofa bed. A bed frame pulls out from the interior of the lower case, and the seat back lifts to form a canopy fitted with curtains that enveloped the sleeper in the same manner as a high-post bedstead. George Washington purchased "1 Settee bed and furniture £13" in 1774 from the estate sale of "Belvoir," the home of his neighbors and close friends, George William and Sally Fairfax, and undoubtedly used it as an extra guest bed to accommodate Mount Vernon's many visitors. What became of Washington's settee bed is not known, but this example demonstrates the appearance and mechanics of the unusual form that once stood in the Little Parlor.

Description

Leather-upholstered settee that converts into a bedstead, set on four casters. When closed, the settee has a serpentine crest with flared ears, open serpentine arms with scrolled terminals and serpentine arm supports, and a rectangular lower case constructed with single-board sides and with a flat-arched front panel that is beaded on the lower edge and carved with a six-lobed shell at center. False, squared, bracket front feet. The back is formed from three boards nailed to the back of the inner frame. The seat back and rectangular slip seat are upholstered in leather; the outer edge of the seat back is outlined in with decorative brass tacks.

The lower case is constructed with single-board sides with clasps on their upper edge that allow the upper wings or sides to be locked in place and the upper wings are each hinged to the back with two butterfly hinges. The wings swing outward when the settee is opened. To convert the settee into a bed, the upholstered slip seat is removed and the upholstered seat back is lifted up while the front seat rail/front panel is lifted and pulled forward. A hinged, folding, webbed frame extends from within the case and two iron rods on the back are inserted into two iron rings to support the now-horizontal seat back, which acts as a canopy and has an iron compass rod with curtains to envelop the user.

The fabric on the underside of the canopy seat back is believed to be an original green wool moreen. The leather, green damask backing on the inside of the case, and green curtains were replaced in 1962 by Ernest LoNano Interiors. Two sections of the folding bed frame may have been replaced at this time as well. It is likely that the present linen webbing installed on the folding frame is an old replacement since there are other nail holes and nail shanks in the rabbet whether the webbing is attached.

Date

1760-1780


Geography


Material/Technique

Mahogany (primary), beech (secondary), leather, wool, linen, brass, iron


Dimensions

Overall (H x W x D): 49 1/2 in. x 40 7/8 in. x 28 1/4 in. (125.73 cm x 103.82 cm x 71.76 cm)
Other ( height and depth of seat): 18 1/4 in. x 18 1/4 in. (46.36 cm x 46.36 cm)
Overall (open): 48 3/4 in. x 40 3/4 in. x 73 in. (123.83 cm x 103.51 cm x 185.42 cm)


Credit Line

Purchased by several Friends of the Collection, 2002


Object Number

M-4244


Colors (Beta)


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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