take a seat: A Mexican chair and its journey to cooper hewitt

How did road trips and X-rays lead to acquiring an exceptional eighteenth-century armchair originally made in Mexico?

Journey with us to discover the design history of this fascinating object that responds to Englishman Thomas Chippendale’s influential pattern book Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, published in 1750. While artisans from across the Atlantic adapted Chippendale’s patterns to suit local tastes, this armchair shows how the furniture style evolved independently from its European origins in culturally diverse and cosmopolitan regions throughout the Americas. Join Cooper Hewitt’s curatorial and conservation teams for an illuminating discussion on artistic global exchange in the Americas during the eighteenth century.


Portrait of Sarah BarackSarah Barack is the Head of Conservation and Senior Objects Conservator at Cooper Hewitt. She received her master’s degree in art history and an advanced certificate of conservation from the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, as well as a master of business administration degree from Columbia Business School. Recent research includes a technical study of eighteenth-century British porcelain and technical imagery of historic glass.
Black and white portrait of Christina L. De LeónChristina L. De León is Associate Curator of Latino Design at Cooper Hewitt where she focuses on the design and decorative arts of the Americas. She has held previous positions at the Americas Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Met Cloisters. De León is also a doctoral candidate at the Bard Graduate Center.
Portrait of Yao-Fen You in a park wearing a textured green shirtYao-Fen You is Senior Curator and Head of Product Design and Decorative Arts, where she specializes in European decorative arts. Her interest in technical art history, which has informed much of her research and publications, was acquired from previous experience at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Fogg Art Museum, and the Detroit institute of Arts. She holds a PhD and master’s degree in the history of art from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

ABOUT THE behind the design SERIES

What makes an object “museum-worthy”? How does an exhibition come to life? What discoveries have been unearthed by conservators? Behind the Design features curators, conservators, and other museum staff and guests in a series of lunch-time conversations to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Cooper Hewitt and its collection.


This free program will feature a lecture followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at moorep@si.edu or let us know when registering.

Featured Image: Chair, Armchair, 18th century, unknown maker. Hardwood (mahogany or primavera), modern upholstery. 101.6 × 73.7 × 61 cm (40 × 29 × 24 in.). Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Museum purchase from Decorative Arts Association Acquisition Fund, 2019-13-1. Photo: Matt Flynn

Yao-Fen You, Brian Fraser, 2020