By Carswell Rush Berlin
Originally published by the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show
‘IN 1817, THE GREAT FRENCH ÉMIGRÉ CABINETMAKER, CHARLESHONORÉ LANNUIER, produced a set of outstanding armchairs in his New York workshop for the wealthy Baltimore merchant James Bosley. Although the chairs had immediate antecedents in designs by the French architects Charles Percier and P.-F.-L. Fontaine, the London antiquarian Thomas Hope, and the English furniture designer George Smith, the original source for their design is found on the marble frieze of the Parthenon in Athens (figs. 1a-f). How did the design for Bosley’s fine armchairs find its way nearly six thousand miles, from the Acropolis to America, from the greatest monument of the cradle of democracy, to the land of its rebirth more than two thousand years later? That answer is part of a remarkable story of discovery, rediscovery and international exchange that fueled American furniture design in the early 19th century.