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Herter Ebonized Inlaid Side Chair

Herter Brothers (1865-1905), New York c. 1875

Made by Herter Brothers for New York’s distinguished Harriman family, this ebonized reception chair’s marquetry inlay is identical to a set of rosewood examples made for the Mark Hopkins house, c. 1878, and its form matches that of a chair made for the White House in 1875, as depicted in a period photo of the Red Room.

The restrained, rectilinear lines of the piece and the geometric trellis work back are based upon Chinese diaper motifs, probably as interpreted in the decorative work of Englishman E. W. Godwin (1833-1886). In addition to its simple lines, the influence of Godwin is also apparent in the chair’s beautiful ebonized finish that crisply accentuates the Japanesque form, with its distinctive pierced side seat stretchers, a uniquely Herter Brothers design motif. The marquetry on the crest rail, with its Asiatic floral and its stylized flowers, leaves and flowing ribbons, is of extraordinarily fine quality. Related chairs by Herter are at the Wadsworth Atheneum, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute, Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.