Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 89 items
  • 3,452 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 41 items
  • 11,371 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,235 items Explore
  • 8,497 items Explore
  • 5,045 items Explore
  • 72 items Explore
  • 167 items Explore
  • 11,070 items Explore
  • 13,625 items Explore
  • 4,639 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 2,084 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,754 items Explore
  • 24 items Explore
  • 437 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 19,209 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,028 items Explore
  • 1,113 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 2,391 items Explore
  • 449 items Explore
  • 29 items
  • 920 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 7 items
  • 19,819 items Explore
  • 800 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 800 items
  • 25 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 146 items
  • 2 items
  • 7 items
  • 119 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,021 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 803 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 108 items
  • 29,480 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,850 items Explore
  • 1,521 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 158 items Explore
  • 9,980 items Explore
  • 9,670 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 39 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 6,109 items Explore
  • 7,461 items Explore
  • 4,463 items Explore
  • 1,616 items Explore
  • 929 items Explore
  • 3,493 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 334 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,429 items Explore
  • 20 items Explore
  • 354 items Explore
  • 797 items Explore
  • 1,095 items Explore
  • 503 items Explore
  • 1,047 items Explore
  • 1,123 items
  • 89 items
  • 124 items Explore
  • 6,952 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 310 items
  • 4 items
  • 20 items
  • 61 items
  • 304 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,921 items Explore
  • 1,575 items Explore
  • 203 items
  • 43 items
  • 19,421 items Explore
  • 1,244 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 843 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 1 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 252 items
  • 314 items
  • 743 items Explore
  • 1,893 items
  • 349 items Explore
  • 2,425 items
  • 2,525 items
  • 3 items
  • 3 items
  • 4,390 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 37,933 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,289 items Explore
  • 275 items Explore
  • 8,067 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 770 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 52 items
  • 21,766 items Explore
  • 917 items
  • 18 items
  • 22,449 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,337 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,030 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 59 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,289 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 453 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 128 items
  • 294 items
  • 734 items
  • 868 items
  • 1 items
  • 895 items Explore
  • 272 items Explore
  • 11,300 items Explore
  • 760 items Explore
  • 6,050 items Explore
  • 11 items
  • 7,589 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 5,358 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,731 items Explore
  • 9,199 items Explore
  • 7,747 items Explore
  • 200 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 869 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 4,151 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,096 items Explore
  • 223 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,553 items Explore
  • 20 items
  • 696 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 6,729 items Explore
  • 15,815 items Explore
  • 3,130 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 9,323 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,319 items Explore
  • 129 items
  • 38 items
  • 13,167 items Explore
  • 3,398 items Explore
  • 2,137 items Explore
  • 44 items
  • 42,310 items Explore
  • 635 items Explore
  • 415 items
  • 1 items
  • 24,571 items Explore
  • 218 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 20 items
  • 27 items
  • 325 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 13,212 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,261 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,529 items Explore
  • 918 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 464 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 220 items
  • 702 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,284 items Explore
  • 1,662 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,928 items Explore
  • 151 items
  • 84 items
  • 773 items Explore
  • 3,137 items Explore
  • 43 items
  • 17 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,682 items Explore
  • 23,102 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 18 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,373 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 13,332 items Explore
  • 3,574 items Explore
  • 2,667 items Explore
  • 4,776 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 45 items
  • 6,899 items Explore
  • 4,772 items Explore
  • 272 items Explore
  • 2,300 items Explore
  • 2,980 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 1,865 items Explore
  • 291 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 470 items Explore
  • 6,120 items Explore
  • 8,810 items Explore
  • 1,859 items Explore
  • 5,793 items Explore
  • 3,339 items Explore
  • 11,064 items Explore
  • 86 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,675 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 5 items
  • 1 items
  • 2,968 items Explore
  • 618 items Explore
  • 62 items
  • 17 items
  • 151 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 87 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 463 items
  • 2 items
  • 996 items Explore
  • 3,612 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 9,405 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,714 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,169 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,562 items Explore
  • 1,002 items Explore
  • 1,920 items
  • 7,563 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,945 items Explore
  • 1,418 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 9,576 items Explore
  • 16,401 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,669 items Explore
  • 180 items
  • 58 items
  • 5,684 items Explore
  • 9,395 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 59 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,394 items Explore
  • 402 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 6 items
  • 4 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 480 items
  • 297 items Explore
  • 8,369 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 22,506 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7,350 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 26 items
  • 3,832 items Explore
  • 463 items
  • 339 items Explore
  • 12,692 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 315 items Explore
  • 434 items
  • 183 items
  • 3,688 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,228 items Explore
  • 2,493 items Explore
  • 732 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,135 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 41 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 74,343 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,065 items Explore
  • 2,847 items Explore
  • 236 items
  • 3,617 items Explore
  • 1,832 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,341 items Explore
  • 5,508 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 632 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 20 items
  • 39 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 177 items
  • 3 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,176 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 17 items
  • 11,194 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,548 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 214 items
  • 17,022 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 9 items
  • 8 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 626 items Explore
  • 1,587 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 1,034 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 261 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

The Knole Sofa

Unknown

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1635 - 1640

Materials

Beech covered with silk velvet and passementerie (braid and fringing), iron

Measurements

104 x 172.5 x 56 cm

Place of origin

London

Order this image

Collection

Knole, Kent

NT 129442

Caption

Today a sofa often feels like an essential part of the home, helping us to relax or socialise in comfort. Amazingly, the word (written as ‘saffaw’) was first used in the 1600s, and the object shown here is one of the earliest surviving examples of an upholstered couch. The design was influenced by furniture from Italy and France, and was originally made for use in Stuart royal palaces. It was covered in crimson velvet and was part of a grand suite of furniture that included two other sofas, six chairs and eight stools. It was probably moved from one of the royal palaces (Hampton Court is stamped under the seat of a comparable chair) to the house of Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (1643–1706), at Knole in Kent in the 1690s. The design later became a classic and was regularly copied and reinterpreted, particularly from the Victorian period onwards.

Summary

A state couch, of beech covered in silk velvet, made by unknown upholsterers in London, probably suppliers to the Great Wardrobe, circa 1635-40. With a rectangular, slightly raked back on rectangular-section rear supports and between straight rectangular profile arms, each topped by a padded and cushioned ‘wing’ or ‘rest’ which can be inclined or raised on an iron ratchet mechanism. The arms raised on columnar front supports descending to rectangular-section front stiles or legs. The seat padded and rectangular. Covered throughout in crimson silk velvet stamped with a repeating small pattern, fixed with brass dome-headed studs and hung with runs of open-work woven lace and gold and silver thread caul fringe. The rear of the back covered in red wool.

Full description

This unique piece of state furniture survives with its seventeenth-century upholstery, top covers, finials and decorative nailing, albeit with later restorations. Knole contains almost all the upholstered furniture surviving from the seventeenth-century royal palaces. Otherwise, it can only be seen in portraiture. Its presence at Knole is largely due to Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (1638-1706), who held the post of Lord Chamberlain (1689-95). He could keep or sell royal furniture which he deemed in need of replacement, acquiring it as a perquisite or ‘perk’ of office. The Knole Sofa, more properly a state couch – the word ‘saffaw’ was first coined around 1700 – is arguably the National Trust’s most famous single piece of furniture. Its distinctive form has been extensively copied since the nineteenth century. In 1945, the furniture historian R. W. Symonds noted the ‘The famous Knole Couch...has been reproduced in tens of thousands by nearly every furniture manufacturer from Victorian to modern times’ (Symonds 1945, p. 114). Eddy Sackville-West, 5th Lord Sackville (1901-65), was apparently once asked how he could live ‘in that dark old place in Kent with all those old sofas?’ To which he replied: ‘One sofa!’ The couch is part of a larger set of matching crimson velvet seat furniture, now in the so-called Leicester Gallery at Knole. It comprises two further couches (NT 129438.1-129438.2), six chairs (NT 129439.1-129439.6), and eight stools – four high (NT 129441.1-129441.4) and four low (NT 129440.1-129440.4). It is thought that this set would have been arranged symmetrically, probably under a state canopy or canopies. The design of the Knole Sofa derives from Italy and France – indeed R. W. Symonds described the design of the Knole Sofa as ‘undoubtedly of French origin’ (Symonds 1945, p. 114) – but it was probably made in London, in now unknown workshops which operated as suppliers to the Great Wardrobe.

Provenance

Presumably acquired as a perquisite by Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset, in his capacity as Lord Chamberlain to King William III. It is thought to belong to a suite of upholstered furniture, the remainders of which were first recorded at Knole in 1706. Knole and the majority of its furniture were accepted by HM Treasury in part payment of death duties and transferred to the National Trust in 1946.

Makers and roles

Unknown , workshop

References

Symonds 1945: R. W. Symonds, 'The Upholstered Furniture at Knole I', Burlington Magazine LXXXVI (May 1945): 110-15 Beard and Coleman 1999: Geoffrey Beard and John Coleman, 'The Knole Settee', Apollo CXLIX / 446 (April 1999): 24-28 Rowell 2006: Christopher Rowell, 'A Set of Early Seventeenth-Century Crimson Velvet Seat Furniture at Knole: New Light on the "Knole Sofa"', Furniture History XLII (2006): 27-52 Porter and Vida, 2019: ‘The Knole Sofa’, in Nathalie Cohen and Frances Parton, eds., Knole Revealed, London 2019, pp. 116-7. Westman, 2019: Annabel Westman, Fringe Frog & Tassel London 2019, pp. 35-6

View more details