Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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William Searle


Joined Great Chair

Creation Date



17th century


48 1/2 in. x 25 1/2 in. x 17 7/8 in. (123.19 cm. x 64.77 cm. x 45.4 cm.)

Object Type


Creation Place

North America, American

Medium and Support


Credit Line

Gift of Ephraim Wilder Farley, Class of 1836


Public Domain

Accession Number

Bowdoin’s chair collection began in 1872 with the arrival of this extraordinary joined great chair. William Searle, an English-trained joiner who emigrated to America in 1663, is believed to have produced it for his own household in Ispwich, Massachusetts. After his death, his widow married another joiner, Thomas Dennis (1638–1706), who like Searle was from Devonshire, England. Dennis took over Searle’s workshop, and it is through the Dennis family that the chair descended. The handsomely carved ornament, with anthropomorphic figures decorating the stiles, is based on the Renaissance and Baroque strapwork seen on furniture from the region in which Searle trained. Used for many years as the president’s chair at Commencement, the chair is now recognized as among the nation’s finest examples of seventeenth-century furniture.

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