[No: LXXXVI | October 18, 2017 | By Viveka Hansen]

Green velvet, red woollen plush, French linen, or East Indian yellow damask. In this third study from one of my earlier projects – about an Inventory from Christinehof manor house in southernmost Sweden – upholstering on listed chairs and sofas will be looked at more closely. Correspondence between family members gives further clues to preferred types of fabric in an aristocratic home. The Piper family’s involvement in the Swedish East India Company, their connection to Stockholm and interest in everything French were also demonstrated in choices of textile materials for chairs and sofas. Additionally two pieces of contemporary 18th century furniture are used as comparison, together with a silk fabric sample and a leaflet about linen manufacturing kept in this family archive.

Front page of the ‘Inventory of Furniture and All Sorts of Household Utensils at Christinehof Manor House Anno 1758’. (Courtesy of: Historical Archive of Högestad and Christinehof, Piper Family archive, no D/Ia).

Numerous chairs listed in the 1758 inventory were simple and practical models as the ‘wooden chair’ (29) or ‘Russia leather chair’ (74), whilst more than fifty chairs were mentioned as painted yellow, often upholstered with various linen. Whilst a limited number of chairs and sofas were of the more expensive kind, seen as luxury pieces and often explained in greater detail. Global cultures and the importance of trade are often present.

The first example of such a model was placed in His Excellence’ Drawing-room as ‘ornamental work and yellow painted from Stockholm in 1757’, and in year 1760 the following note was added: ‘covered with a woven patterned green velvet quality with a large cushion and green linen over the inside back.’ This armchair upholstered with a fine velvet was one of many pieces of furniture with its origin in Stockholm workshops. Overall it appears to be true for the majority of finer models, even if not always mentioned. This theory is also strengthened by the late historian Marshall Lagerquist’s studies about Swedish trade in furniture, whilst he emphasised that selling of “upper class” furniture in other places than Stockholm was rare before 1780. Another piece placed in the Countess’ Drawing-room had French origin instead, named as: ‘French Bergere or chaise longue of ornamented work, yellow painted, upholstered with “Cramoise Cicilerat” [cut and uncut?] velvet and edged with silk cords.’

This wooden armchair dating ca 1750s-1780s, painted in a greyish yellow colour and upholstered with a printed cotton fabric, is similar to the listed armchairs at Christinehof manor house in 1758. Some of these chairs were also painted in a yellowish shade, but described to be upholstered with linen from Helsingland, French linen, or only with linen or damask fabric. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, Sweden. SKANM.0187337, six identical chairs in the collection. Digitalt Museum).

Two other models were placed in the Countess’ Bedchamber and described as: ‘Plush on two green armchairs’, which furthermore in 1760 had been covered with a ‘white and red striped linen from Helsingland.’ This particular type of linen was repeatedly included in the inventory, for upholstering of furniture, curtains or as wall covering. These many hundreds of meter of fabric listed for the home had its origin from the Linen Manufacture of Flor in the county of Helsingland (Sweden). The aristocratic Piper family were frequent customers and share-holders by the middle of the century, according to records in the archive as mentioned in a caption below. Their ownership of fabric from this linen manufacturer is foremost shown in the extremely detailed 1758 inventory, but also in preserved estate inventories from the family’s other manor houses.

This eight-page set of regulations for interested parties and potential ownership of a total of ‘600 Lots’ in the Linen Manufacture of Flor was printed in 1731. Among the signatories local interested parties as well as men of influence in Sweden were listed in that year, such as ‘C. F. [Carl Fredrik] Piper’. Later he and the family – possibly already at this stage – owned 45 lots. (Courtesy of: Historical Archive of Högestad and Christinehof, Piper Family Archive, L/XI).

Furthermore there existed a Flor linen shop (Flors linnebod) at the market place Riddarhustorget in Stockholm, where the family possibly purchased linen textiles as it was situated close to one of their other homes “the Palace”. This shop advertised frequently in Stockholms Post Tidning, for instance on June 24th in 1756, as studied via a newspaper kept in the Piper Family Archive. Finally the small printed leaflet of the initial rules and regulations for the Linen Manufacture of Flor, dating March 9th in 1731 (image above), further strengthens that the family had had an economical interest in the linen production for more than 25 years, when the 1758 inventory was written.

Few physical objects are preserved from mid-18th century Christinehof, so this sofa dating ca 1750s-1760s is a good comparison to the listed models in the 1758 inventory, as well as for described textiles in correspondence from the son Carl Gustaf to his father Carl Fredrik Piper in 1764. The son noted: ‘…it was needed 24 aln [ca 15 meter] damask, whereof it should be enough and for both side-cushions on both sides to be upholstered, so they can be turned around how one prefer if they got worn on one side’. It is interesting to notice the planning of the length of cloth, so that such an expensive furnishing fabric could last as long as possible in a wealthy home too. This depicted sofa was upholstered with a yellow silk damask, re-upholstered at unknown year, but possibly chosen to be similar in colour and design as was popular in the mid-18th century. Compare with the illustrated yellow silk damask sample below, kept in the Piper Family Archive. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, Sweden. SKANM.0193586. Digitalt Museum).

This small piece of silk damask was part of the discussion in a series of letters between the son, Carl Gustaf and his father Carl Fredrik Piper in 1763. Among other matters regarding the process of dyeing a similar type of silk fabric to the desired shade by a professional dyer in Stockholm and how best to transport such an expensive silk the ca 500 kilometres to southernmost Sweden. Additionally notice the contrasting colours of the fabric selvedge, which probably indicates East Indian origin. (Courtesy of: Historical Archive of Högestad and Christinehof, Piper Family archive, no D/IX & E/II a1) Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

Yellow East India damask was also mentioned in the inventory for the Yellow Bed Chamber of the house, which shows how such fabric could be used in a wealthy home:
‘The room covered in yellow East India Furnishing Damask.
1 entire Four Poster Bed, a Canopy of the same Damask with small curtains and 3 pieces of under-flounce, cover and head piece, edged with yellow silk braid.
6 Armchairs of the same Damask as the room with yellow linen covers.’
The entire room was hung with those costly textiles, and the bed and armchairs, matching the decor were covered in the same fabric. Carl Fredrik Piper also owned ‘six shares or lots in the East India Company’, to a value of 6,000 Rixdollar silver coins, which with every successful voyage could bring in a dividend of between 30 and 50%. The Swedish East India Company was active between 1731 to 1813 and an important factor for the increasing demand for all sorts of “exotic” goods – exquisite silks from China or Indian muslin being two such desirable products.

Quotes translated from Swedish to English.

Previous post in this series:
Social Life, Tables & Embroidery – At a Manor House in 1758.

– Hansen, Viveka, Inventariüm uppå meübler och allehanda hüüsgeråd sid Christinehofs Herregård upprättade åhr 1758, 2004. (pp. 9-11 & 38-57. A large number of primary and secondary sources were studied for this book. For full Bibliography; please see this book. The book is available here.
– Hansen, Viveka, Katalog över Högestads & Christinehofs Fideikommiss, Historiska Arkiv (Piperska Handlingar No. 3), London & Christinehof 2016. (English Summary & Captions)
– Historical Archive of Högestad and Christinehof, (Piper Family archive, no D/IX incl. silk sample, D/Ia Inventory 1758, E/II a1 correspondence, F/IId2 shares & L/XI. Linen Manufacture of Flor…).
– Lagerquist, Marshall, Möbelhandeln i Sverige före 1780, 1981.


– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Chairs, Sofas and East Indian Silks – At a Manor House in 1758’, TEXTILIS (October 18, 2017); https://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)