Has there ever been a more unappreciated human accomplishment than the humble sofa? After a long day, when you collapse in the living room, pants-less, for an evening of Postmates and Netflix, it's not your étagère that makes you feel at ease. Of course, before Netflix and food delivery apps and the general acceptance of dining alone in the living room sans pants, sofas had a different role: to impress even your fanciest friends with their craftsmanship and beauty.
No sofa embodies this more than the illustrious Dundas sofa, which dates to 1765 and is a new addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's collection of decorative arts, housed at Rienzi. Covered in a hot pink silk damask that would make Barbie swoon, this renowned piece of furniture was commissioned as part of a suite by Sir Lawrence Dundas, a Scottish businessman and art patron, and represents the only known collaboration between two legendary English designers, architect Robert Adam and furniture maker Thomas Chippendale.
This sofa is not only gorgeous, with gilded carvings inspired by the Roman temples of Antoninus and Faustina and other sarcophagi as well as eight leontine claw feet, it's also ample enough to seat your whole squad at 8 feet long. Designed for the principal drawing room of Sir Dundas' London mansion, the sofa has remained in the family collection until being acquired by the MFAH.
To mark its arrival, the Dundas sofa will be the centerpiece of a new exhibition, "Grand Designs: Neoclassical Taste in the 18th Century," opening at Rienzi on Sept. 17. It will also be discussed at length by Dr. Adriano Aymonino in the keynote presentation of Rienzi's second biennial symposium, "A Sense of Proportion: Architect-Designed Objects, 1650-1950," taking place Sept. 24 and focusing on the factors behind the signature look of objects designed by architects.
"Grand Designs: Neoclassical Taste in the 18th Century," is on display at Rienzi, 1406 Kirby Dr., Sept. 17 through Feb. 20, 2017.