1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cushion

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CUSHION (from O. Fr. coisson, coussin; according to the New English Dict., from Lat. coxa, a hip; others say from Lat. culcita, a quilt), a soft bag of some ornamental material, stuffed with wool, hair, feathers, or even paper torn into fragments. It may be used for sitting or kneeling upon, or to soften the hardness or angularity of a chair or couch. It is a very ancient article of furniture, the inventories of the contents of palaces and great houses in the early middle ages constantly making mention of it. It was then often of great size, covered with leather, and firm enough to serve as a seat, but the steady tendency of all furniture has been to grow smaller. It was, indeed, used as a seat, at all events in France and Spain, at a very much later period, and in Saint-Simon’s time we find that at the Spanish court it was still regarded as a peculiarly honourable substitute for a chair. In France the right to kneel upon a cushion in church behind the king was jealously guarded and strictly regulated, as we may learn again from Saint-Simon. This type of cushion was called a carreau or square. When seats were rude and hard the cushion may have been a necessity; it is now one of the minor luxuries of life.

The term “cushion” is given in architecture to the sides of the Ionic capital. It is also applied to an early and simple form of the Romanesque capitals of Germany and England, which consist of cubical masses, square at the top and rounded off at the four corners, so as to reduce the lower diameter to a circle of the same size as the shaft.