Arthur Lasenby Liberty, founder of Liberty & Co. on Regent Street, was memorialised as ‘The Man Who Killed the Best Parlour’ by introducing a whole new aesthetic to his aspirational middle-class customer. Liberty was inspired by London’s Pre-Raphaelite artists, who were not only his customers, but also part of his brand identity. Tapping into the market that Morris & Co had created, he offered unique luxury goods in an age of mass-production. Eclecticism became the watchword for drawing room decoration as the middle classes tried to outdo each other is displaying their newly-acquired ‘artistic’ taste.
I am pretty sure you are not looking at the right thing in this photograph. Tear your eyes away from Ruskin’s menacing stick and bell-bottomed trousers (centre). Do not be distracted by Rossetti’s poor posture or the hanky peeping untidily from his waistcoat (right). What interests us here is the delicate-looking armchair being dwarfed by the bulk of William Bell Scott (left).
The photo above was taken by William A. Downey in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s garden on 29 June 1863. You can read more about this image on The Victorian Web. Scott must have developed a certain kinship with this chair. Here he is again, this time with one heavy leg dangerously propped on its delicate rush seat.