Addams Family Empire

Gomez Addams on an Empire Sofa
Gomez Addams on an Empire Sofa

The Addams Family is set for a run on Broadway where character Wednesday will turn 18 and deal with getting a boyfriend. The original creation of the Addams family was of course on television in the 1960s with a set containing numerous curiosities in a Second-Empire mansion. One of these is an empire-style sofa I noticed while watching an episode on Hulu.com. I captured a screen shot and set out for a discussion on a LinkedIn group.My first reaction was that the good carving made it a “period” sofa, probably from New York that somehow made it to California and onto the set. There were signs it may not be period, a thin crest rail in the back being one, but the four carved feet nudged me toward the idea that it could be period.

One thing the LinkedIn discussion did was made me realize I loosely use the word “period.” Strictly speaking, the Empire period ends with Napoleon in about 1815. I became aware that I was using the term “period” to mean the time when a style was first produced. In the United States, the empire style took hold after 1810 and much of what we think of as “empire” in the United States is not from the “Empire period,” and so there is little out there that can be called “period.” The most elaborate furniture in this style was made around 1815-25.

I figured the sofa to be from the middle of the 19th Century, somewhere between 1835 and 1865. The misuse of the word “period” led to a misunderstanding of the meaning of reproduction. A reproduction of something from the Empire period is different from something produced when the style was popular in the United States.

If the sofa were made early in the 19th Century, however, it wouldn’t have a padded seat pillow. I assumed it was added later, and the “whale’s tail” design on the arms could have had bolster pillows.

Empire-style sofa sold at Auction in Florida
Empire-style sofa sold at Auction in Florida

Other comments on the Linkedin group suggested the sofa was a reproduction, and could be so even notwithstanding the definition of the word “period.” The sofa being from the Victorian period would make some sense given its location in California. Things are shipped all the time, so there isn’t much to be gained from discussing items current locale.

A search through liveauctioneers.com turned up a very similar sofa, this one auctioned in Florida. The auction house doesn’t seem to make any assessment other than saying it’s an empire-style sofa. It also has a seat cushion, this one in three-parts. Closer inspection makes it seem there isn’t room for bolsters. Since both have similar seat cushions that look Victorian in origin, perhaps this the sofa was produced for a second Empire-style home not unlike the one pictured in the show’s opening scenes and is Victorian, perhaps from the 1870s.

I’d be interested in any additional insight.

UPDATE: A third of this type has appeared on eBay. See gaggle of Interests for January 3, 2010

About Eric Miller

Eric Miller is co-founder and contributor to Urban Art & Antiques. His website is ericmiller.me

1 comments

I have just purchased a sofa of nearly identical design and in doing a little research I turned up your artical. I am curious, you make a statement that if the sofa were period that it would not have a padded seat. Well what kind of seat would you expect as coil springs had not been invented yet. Of course the sofa had a cushion, it would have been one long one but still a padded seat. All of the ones that you see with springed seats or either later copies or the springs were added the first time it was redone for more comfort and to be more modern.

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