Pair of Important American Aesthetic Carved Oak Throne Chairs , c. 1881-1882, Herter Brothers,

SOLD for $225,000 on 6 February 2021 at the Neal Auction

Pair of Important American Aesthetic Carved Oak Throne Chairs , c. 1881-1882, Herter Brothers, New York, each with carved ogee crest over padded back and seat flanked by stiles carved with anthemia and bosses continuing to paneled sides with a carved trompe l'oeil drape, arabesques and ribbon garlands behind gryphon term stiles and over massive paw front feet and plinth base. h. 41 in, w. 38 in., d. 33 in., together with original under upholstery present, removed, consisting of cotton batting covered with brown mohair velvet presumably the base for a top cushion, also included approximately a yard of French gimp.

Note: This remarkable pair of chairs was commissioned for the ground floor atrium of the William Vanderbilt Residence, an Italianate compound for Vanderbilt and his daughters filling a city block at 640 5th Avenue in New York City. The finest and largest house on Fifth Avenue of the 1880s, it was estimated to have employed 600 workmen for its construction, and represented Herter Brothers’ most important design commission. It was also one of the most well documented houses of “Vanderbilt Row” as a 160 page folio, Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection, Volume I, complete with colored photographs, engravings, and elaborate descriptions by Edward Strahan, nom de plume for art critic Earl Shinn. The chairs offered here are illustrated in two plates and two different engraved illustrations in Mr. Vanderbilt’s House. The atrium where these chairs were placed was a two-story galleried space faced in rosso antico marble and lavishly hung with tapestries. Though the ground floor atrium was dubbed the “Egyptian Room,” Herter Brothers worked with a broad selection of historical forms for the furnishings. The chairs offered here are adapted from the ancient Egyptian Royal thrones and the ancient Roman Solium form. The Herter designers were well aware that the Solium was an armed chair usually carved with gryphon terms from a single block of wood or stone to be used by a Roman master of the house when he received visitors in his atrium. Visitors to Vanderbilt’s atrium likely found it fitting that the Solium was an easily recognized form of Sella Curulis (Roman State) chairs and Egyptian royal thrones. Also in the Vanderbilt atrium were a pair of large Herter Brothers carved oak console tables, one surviving in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art (no. 1996-213 A-E).

Careful study indicates that while the table and chairs are not strictly en suite, they harmonize together with shared materials and motifs, as did many of the other decorations in the house. Though the term supports on the tables differ (from gryphons on the chairs and human forms on the tables), various carved moldings, the ribboned garlands, and the playful tromp l’oeil carved wood tapestries are prominent in both tables and chairs. Completed in 1882, 640 5th Avenue served as William Vanderbilt’s residence for three years until his 1885 death in its library. Vanderbilt’s heirs leased the house to Henry Clay Frick among others until 1915 when Cornelius and Grace Vanderbilt moved in. Bye the early 20th century the elaborate furnishings had become passe; the house was gutted and the furnishings dispersed. The few surviving Herter examples from the William Vanderbilt commission are only known in museum collections (including the Metropolitan Museum of art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the High Museum, Atlanta) and the chairs offered here. Ref.: Edward Strahan. Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection, Volume I, Boston-New York-Philadelphia: George Barrie (1883-1884) p. 21, 24 (; Stephen Harrison, "Vanderbilt Console," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 237; Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen. “Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age, Herter Brothers and the William H. Vanderbilt House.” Antiques and Fine Art (Spring 2016).