Larsson, Carl (1853-1919)
Among the Swedish artist Carl Larsson’s many watercolours of the house he shared with his wife, Karin, and eight children, is one of their sitting room that radiates a pleasing sense of domesticity — a discarded newspaper and shoes, a sleeping dog, a rug hung nonchalantly over the arm of the sofa. But it is the blue-and-white striped loose cover of the sofa that does most to enhance the relaxed feeling of this elegant space. Larsson painted it in 1895, a time when Victorians, such as the family of another artist, Linley Sambourne, were living among buttoned, fringed and tightly upholstered splendour at 18, Stafford Terrace that remains a monument to the Victorian decorative exuberance (both artists’ houses are open to the public).
As with so many of the key ingredients in classic decoration, there’s a deeply practical rationale behind the loose cover: namely, that it can be washed and changed at will. In the past, they were often fitted to protect furniture or changed according to the season. They also soften the look of a sofa or chair by hiding its legs.
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