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Upholstery CSI: Reading the Evidence

When most people look at furniture, they admire the craftsmanship of the cabinetmaker. But the look and function of seating furniture often hinged on the talent of another trade – that of the upholsterer. In Upholstery CSI: Reading the Evidence visitors will discover the secrets of the 18th-century upholstery trade. Beginning with a bare chair frame, the upholsterer layered webbing, linen, stuffing, and show fabric to create a fashionable piece. Unfortunately the 200-year-old fabrics rarely survive the passage of time and changing fashions.


Being able to read the evidence left behind to reconstruct the 18th-century appearance is the task of the modern-day curators and conservators. This exhibition explores the work of Colonial Williamsburg upholstery conservator Leroy Graves and the non-intrusive upholstery method he developed that is now used by museums worldwide. The goal of the Graves Approach is to restore a piece to its earliest appearance without marking or disturbing the frames or surviving upholstery.


The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Don and Elaine Bogus and will be on view in the Wilkinson Gallery.


Related Programs


Focus on Furniture

Focus on Furniture

Join us for an in-depth tour of 18th- and early 19th-century furniture including rare baroque, rococo and neo-classical tables, chairs, chests, desks and upholstered pieces.