Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is one of the largest museums in the United States and within its permanent collection boasts history spanning 6,000 years. 1924 saw the opening of the first museum building to the public and since that time has grown to seven facilities today. The main areas explored by the museum are Italian Renaissance painting, French Impressionism, photography, American and European decorative arts, African and pre-Columbian gold, American art, and post-1945 European and American painting and sculpture.

Rienzi is the house museum that accommodates the European decorative arts collection which includes an extensive group of furnishings, paintings and porcelain. Rienzi was opened to the public in 1999 in the former home of philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III.

The Dundas Sofa, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Dundas Sofa

Silk Damask for a gilt sofa.

Museum purchase funded by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund.

The sofa is the main feature of the Rienzi exhibition Grand Designs: Neoclassical Taste in the 18th Century running from September 17, 2016 to February 20, 2017.

The rare Dundas Sofa is a true show of British ability in the decorative arts. The sofa was commissioned in 1764 from leading architect and interior designer Robert Adam with the construction in 1765 by renowned cabinet maker, and furniture designer in his own right, Thomas Chippendale. The piece in The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston collection is part of a suite made for Sir Lawrence Dundas for his London home, Number 19 Arlington Street. The suite was originally comprised of four sofas and eight armchairs. Three sofas and four chairs were retained within the Dundas descendant line when items from Arlington Street were sold in the Christie’s sale of 1934. The suite is the only known documented example of a Robert Adam design carried out by Thomas Chippendale.

The sofa is of a gilt limewood, pine and beech construction and Humphries Weaving were commissioned to weave a pure silk fabric in an appropriate narrow width mid-18th century pattern for the re-upholstery. Original 18th Century threads were found on the carcass of the sofa whcih underwent colour analysis to verify the shade of red.  The pattern of the crimson damask chosen can also been seen at Dumfries House, Scotland

An original drawing of the sofa can be found in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

Project reference: 2652

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London has armchair ‘VII’ from the same suite in their collection which can be found in the British Galleries.

More information about the Dundas Sofa can be found here on the Musuem of Fine Arts, Houston website.


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund, 2014.810