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Curatorial discoveries bring interpretive spice to Lorenzo

18th century upholstery, signatures and handwriting, bullet holes in furniture add to the Lincklaen family story

Lorenzo officials Sharon Cooney, interpretive programs assistant and volunteer docent coordinator, left, Barbara Bartlett, director of Lorenzo, center, and Jacqueline Vivirito, curatorial associate, examine the “harvest table” in the mansion’s formal dining room and the way it can extend out to accomodate a larger number of people. A recent conservation study revealed that the table had not only drop leaves, but also a swivel top, swivel legs and drop down legs to hold up a table extension.

Lorenzo officials Sharon Cooney, interpretive programs assistant and volunteer docent coordinator, left, Barbara Bartlett, director of Lorenzo, center, and Jacqueline Vivirito, curatorial associate, examine the “harvest table” in the mansion’s formal dining room and the way it can extend out to accomodate a larger number of people. A recent conservation study revealed that the table had not only drop leaves, but also a swivel top, swivel legs and drop down legs to hold up a table extension. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— A few years ago, former Lorenzo Director Russell Grills asked Bayne to take the sofa to the state conservation lab and see if there was anything interesting under the green velvet upholstery. When Bayne and his colleagues removed the velvet, they found a plain white linen weave underneath that pre-dated the sofa covering shown in the 1906 photo. In fact, the sofa arms and back were covered in the original 18th century materials, “virtually untouched,” in what turned out to be “the most original fabric of any sofa in the country,” he said. They also found a piece of the circa-1906 linen, with the beige and brown colors unfaded, underneath the frame.

“That was totally a ‘eureka’ moment. It was the kind of thing where you run up and down the hall,” he said.

But that was not all they found. As they continued to deconstruct the sofa as part of the conservation process, they discovered that the back was detachable, which was typical of such a sofa, and also that the arms were detachable — which was not typical. This was probably to make it easier to ship, but also because the upholstery was all slip-covering, none of it was nailed to the frame (until the 1930s green velvet).

They also found “mystery blocks” nailed to the sofa frame and covered with linen, which none of the conservators had ever seen before, as well as a board nailed to the frame that was totally inaccessible and, apparently, functionless.

So Bayne contacted experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who looked at the Lorenzo sofa and figured out that the apparently functionless board was part of a large board that would have spanned the entire interior of the sofa to act as a sort of mattress support. Then, after speaking with a curator at a historic site in Albany who had similar “mystery blocks” on a sofa in their possession, it was determined that the Lorenzo sofa actually folded out into a bed. It would have had kick-down legs under the extension, which are now gone.

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