Mary Stuart Armchair
Herter Brothers (1865-1905)
New York c. 1881-1883
This extraordinary armchair was made by Herter Brothers for the residence of Mary Stuart, located on Fifth Avenue at 68th Street. The chair is seen in a photograph of Stuart’s picture gallery which was depicted in the monumental 1883 work entitled Artistic Houses – however, a similar chair and settee by Herter are visible in the library of Samuel Colman’s Newport residence – also depicted in Artistic Houses. However, a pencil inscription on the frame of the present example confirms that this piece was made for the “Stuart” residence. The chair also has three-digit numbers impressed on its inside right rear leg, as well as India Comb Rubber casters, as is typical for Herter’s commissioned seating pieces.
The dramatic, continuously flowing profile of the chair’s design would appear to have been inspired by ancient Greco-Roman precendent – the “Klismos” form in particular. Modern and almost Art Deco in spirit, the chair has numerous subtle but highly refined details that attest to the design mastery and skill of Herter, including integral block plinths atop the side spindles and crisply incised pinstripes and volutes articulating the chair’s frame edges and joinery connections.