Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854)

New York,  1807-1810

The paneled scrolled crest rail with low relief carved sheaths of wheat bundled by a bowknot above a double X-form stays each with central carved rosettes held between reeded stiles and stay rail with rosettes at the joints.  The balloon form caned seat with reeded edge above turned and reeded legs with vase-form feet. Accession number 41.46 is painted on the bottom of the seat rail.

H: 32½”  W: 18½”  D: 20″

Condition: Very Good, with old repairs to breaks at the top of the proper right stile and seat rail near the proper left front leg.  A crack to the top of the proper right leg has been reinforced.  The bottom leaf of the top X rosette has been re-carved.  The seat frame medial braces and the original cane seating are replaced. Re-finished with shellac in the manner of the period.

This chair fits perfectly into a group of scroll-back chairs made by Duncan Phyfe and Charles-Honoré Lannuier in 1807.  The rare double-X back stays are seen on an arm chair by Lannuier in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in an over upholstered side and arm chair made by Phyfe for the Bayard’s, documented by a bill of sale, in the collection at Winterthur.  The invoice indicates that this model was more expensive than chairs appearing on the same invoice with a single X back due to the additional charges for “Each extra cross banister” and “Each rose in the center of the cross.” An identical chair with an upholstered seat is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.[1]

The crest rail carving of sheaves of wheat tied with a bowknot is also seen on the central panel of a Sheraton scroll-back sofa, probably by Phyfe, also at the Metropolitan Museum, which the author of the catalog Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York, Peter Kenny, describes as “… the best of its kind, and if indeed it was produced in the Phyfe workshop, then it is apparent that Phyfe had in his employ some of the finest specialty chair makers and carvers working in the United States at the time.”[2]

This chair also exhibits the square rosettes at the juncture of the reeded stiles and stay rail that are seen in a curule-base chair attributed to Phyfe, believed to have been made for Thomas Cornell Pearsall about 1810.[3]

Lotus carving on the turning at the base of the stiles complete a chair design with every possible refinement and enhancement that such a chair could posses and, as such, must be considered a masterpiece of the form.

Provenance:     Walter Vogel Fine American Antiques, Rochester, New York, c. 1940
Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY.
Campbell-Whittlesey House Museum


[1] Jonathan L. Fairbanks & Elizabeth Bidwell Bates, American Furniture: 1620 to the Present (New York, 1981), p.240.

[2] Peter M. Kenny & Michael K. Brown, Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York, (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), p.72, fig. 68,  p. 117, fig. 143, p. 158, pl. 1, p. 166-167, pl. 6.

[3] Ibid, p.178-179, pl.13.