Horsehair

Term that denotes both hair from the mane or tail of a horse and a cloth (usually black or white and then dyed as appropriate) with a linen warp and horsehair weft. In upholstery, the former was used as padding for centuries, and the latter for covering furniture from at least the mid-18th century to the early 20th. The style was particularly associated with mahogany furniture, with which black horsehair goes particularly well. Horsehair was valued for its elegance, sheen and durability. It was usually fixed with decorative nails (often gilded). It was clearly an English fashion, and at least one Frenchman specified it for his dining chairs in the 1770s. Horsehair was favoured for dining rooms as well, because it is easy to clean and does not retain smells.
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© Grove Art / OUP

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