Numbered III and X of a larger set with slip seats numbered III and IIII, these chairs represent one of the many variations of Classical chairs made in New York in the 1820s. Another chair from the set is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.1 The leaf-carved paw feet were a more expensive alternative to plain or leaf-carved saber legs. The boldly figured mahogany veneers and high quality carving of the water leaves and hairy paw feet are hallmarks of the shop of Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854), the Scottish-born and trained cabinetmaker working in New York during the early 19th century. Phyfe was known to make similar klismos seating furniture in the 1820s including a large suite of furniture for James Lefferts Brinckerhoff (1791-1846) in 1816.2 Eight klismos side chairs of mahogany with related hairy shanks and lion’s-paw feet were made as part of the Brinckerhoff suite and itemized at $22 a piece on the invoice.3 Duncan Phyfe made additional klismos side chairs of similar design in 1816 as part of a large parlor suite of furniture for Charles Nicoll Bancker (1777-1869).4
Related armchairs of similar design with upholstered backs, slip seats, and hairy paw feet are known. One formerly with Yonderhill Dwellers was included in the landmark exhibition, Classical America 1815-1915 held at The Newark Museum in 1963.5 Another armchair from a set of twelve chairs is in the collection of Richard H. Jenrette and published by Derek E. Ostergard, “My Favorite Chair,” in the Winter Antiques Show catalogue of January 1996.6 Several additional armchairs with a painted and gilded surface are in the Museum of the City of New York, a New York private collection, and at Winterthur Museum.7
1 Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession no. 2000.216.
2 See Peter Kenny, Michael Brown, Frances Bretter and Matthew Thurlow, Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011): pp. 184-5, plate 17 and 18.
3 Ibid, p. 184.
4 See ibid, p. 188-9, plate 20.
5 The Newark Museum, Classical America 1815-1915, 1963, no. 38, p. 55 and 77.
6 14 and 17.
7 See Wendy Cooper, Classical Taste in America 1800-1840 (New York: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1993): pl. 97, p. 137.
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