ca. 1880
cherry, ebonized with gilding
United States,New York, NY
Overall: 34 1/4 × 17 1/2 × 19 in. (87 × 44.45 × 48.26 cm)

This chair is one of many Herter designs to borrow from the “judiciously eclectic” style of the English architect-designer Edward William Godwin. While mindful of contemporary concerns about industrialization, Godwin aimed to restore “art” to the people through the machine-assisted production of Aesthetic goods. This approach marked the beginnings of commercially manufactured so-called art furniture.

Aside from the carved panel of its backsplat, the chair duplicates the formal Anglo-Japanese composition of two other important Herter commissions, one for the William H. Vanderbilt residence in New York, and the other for the Mark Hopkins residence in San Francisco. Simple modifications to wood tones and surface treatment – painting, gilding, and inlay – resulted in objects that appeared custom-made without taxing the Herter Brothers’ manufacturing resources. The finished works highlight the firm’s ability to meet the specialized needs of its demanding clients while maintaining industrial efficiency.

Mary Morton Parsons Fund for American Decorative Arts
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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