In the Manner of Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854)

New York, 1805-1815

Each of Klismos form with scrolled back with crest rail carved with gilt crossed flaming torches above a double cyma-shaped splat, with paneled stiles and an elliptic upholstered seat, the front legs turned and tapering with gilt flutes and capital elements.

H: 32″,  W: 18″,  D: 18″

Condition: lacking original (gilt) compo decorative elements on the seat rail in the center and above the legs.  Various old repairs including restoration to breaks in the seat rails and old repairs to the joint of front leg and seat rails. Possible minute loss in height to front legs. Modern seat frames.  Lightly cleaned of surface dirt.  Woods: Maple rear stiles and Cherry front seat rail.

Formerly a set of six, one chair from this set is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and another is in the Kaufman Collection on view at the National Gallery of Art.  Two other chairs from this set are in a highly distinguished private collection.

The importance of these chairs can not be overstated as they redefine New York “Fancy” furniture and are probably by Duncan Phyfe.  Of exceptional rarity, quality and beauty, their original surface condition make this unique set of chairs of museum quality.

A New York side chair with a related splat is pictured in Berry Tracy’s Classical America 1815-1845 (The Newark Museum, 1963), figure 35.  This chair, one of a pair in the collection of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, is also pictured with its mate in a catalogue of their collection.[1]  These chairs share with the present set both the distinctive cyma-shaped strap-work splat and a carved “scroll-back”in the Directoire style but have a more typical acanthus carved saber leg with carved paw feet.  The front seat rail and front legs of the present set relate, instead, to earlier French Neo-classical chairs rarely found on American chairs such as on a Louis XVI upholstered arm chair of Philadelphia origin in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, pictured in Comstock, American Furniture, (New York, 1962) figure 420.

The combination of a New York-type Klismos back, and Directoire elliptic front seat rail and front legs is unknown except for this example.

Provenance: Collection of Mr. & Mrs. John Rieger,  67 Park Avenue, New York, NY.

[1] Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Anna Tobin D’Ambrosio, Ed. (Syracuse, MWPI, 1999), p.38-39. A set of eight identical chairs, probably from the same set, were offered at Sotheby’s, October 11, 2001, lot 240.

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