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Chair

Herter Brothers (American, active 1855–c. 1900)

c. 1882

Medium gilded wood with mother-of-pearl inlay and modern upholstery Measurements H: 34 1/2 x W: 19 3/4 x D: 19 in. (87.63 x 50.16 x 48.26 cm) Credit DuPuy Fund Accession Number 83.36 Location Gallery 18, Bruce Galleries

Narrative

From the mid-1870s, under the directorship of Christian Herter, Herter Bothers of New York City created interiors that put aside pure historic revivalism and drew upon a variety of cultural antecedents, especially Near and Far Eastern ones, in the development of an eclectic environment wrought with high artistic intention. The interiors that Christian Herter designed for William H. Vanderbilt's mansion, for example, included a pair of gilded chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl and upholstered in red Chinese silk. This chair is one of the pair; the other is in the collection of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. They were designed for one of the most lavish rooms in the Vanderbilt house, the drawing room, which was itself a composition in gold, silver, and red. Walls were hung with profusely embroidered red velvet. A crimson carpet covered the floor. The ceiling decoration, carried out by Herter's former teacher, Pierre-Victor Galland of Paris, depicted fair ladies and knights at a tournament. Herter's familiarity with Eastern decoration is evident in more than just the Chinese silk upholstery that was originally on this chair. It is manifest also in the beaded Moorish arches under the seat, in the carving on the front of the seat rail, which suggests the silk cording on Japanese scroll paintings or Japanese swords, and in the mother-of-pearl inset into the chair back and the corners of the seat rails. Herter ratified the success of this design by repeating it, with only minor changes, in the chairs for J.P. Morgan of New York and Oliver Ames, Jr., of Boston.