PAIR OF RESTAURATION SIDE CHAIRS IN CARVED ROSEWOOD
Attributed to D. Phyfe & Son (1840-1847)
New York c.1840
The oxbow shaped crest rail above a vertical central carved and pierced splat above a lotus carved stay rail with an upholstered balloon seat on cabriole front legs.
H: 32¾” W: 17½” D: 18”
Condition: Excellent: Minor repairs to cracks in the splats and at one rear stile at the seat. Re-finished with shellac in the manner of the period. New horsehair upholstery.
Published: Peter M. Kenny & Michael K. Brown et al. Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), p. 108, fig. 136.
The attribution to Phyfe is based on the close relationship between this example and a published set made in mahogany by Phyfe for his daughter Eliza Vail about 1830 that descended in her family to F. Percy Vail. An even more closely related rosewood chair, attributed to Phyfe, is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Klismos form of this chair has changed and softened over time as tastes evolved from the purely classical forms of the early 19th century that conformed closely to ancient furniture, to the smoother undulating style of the French Restauration, increasingly popular in America in the 1830s. It is possible that this design was inspired by plate CXLVI in George Smith’s Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide (London 1828), which is titled “Antique Chair, – French.” It is described in the text as “…after the taste of Louis XIV…and should be wholly of rosewood, or altogether gilt.” Yet, at the same time, the shape of this “balloon” seat is illustrated in The London Chair-Makers’ and Carvers’ Book of Prices for Workmanship (1807), pl.5, and had been used by Phyfe for sofas and chairs as early as 1807.
 Also see: Peter M. Kenny & Michael K. Brown et al. Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), p. 239, pl. 50 and in Nancy McClelland’s Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency (New York, William R. Scott, Inc., 1939), p.126 and in the exhibition catalog 19th Century America: Furniture and Other Decorative Arts (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970), pl. 77
 Kenny, pp. 70, 160-161.