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Set of Fourteen Gothic Dining Chairs

New York
Possibly designed by Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892) c. 1845-48

Between 1845 and 1848, A. J. Davis designed and oversaw the construction of Belmead, a Gothic Revival villa on the James River in Powhatan County, Virginia, for Philip St. George Cocke (1809-1861), a wealthy planter and later a Confederate General. Several pieces of furniture known to have been used at Belmead – including a hexagonal center table presumed to have been designed by Davis for the house and having a history of descent in the Cocke family – confirm that he was likely involved in furnishing the house and may even have designed some of the furniture himself. A Gothic settee in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and an armchair at the St. Louis Museum, Missouri, are also part of the original furnishings of Belmead.

This suite of fourteen chairs bears a close resemblance to a pair of chairs that also descended in the Cocke family. Although it is not likely that the present chairs were made for Belmead, their relationship to the Cocke/Belmead chairs places them within Davis’s orbit, and, whether designed by him or not, are likely to have been produced in New York in the 1840’s. Although, like so much Gothic furniture, these chairs rely on a lingering Neo-Classical aesthetic, here their “Gothic-ness” is enhanced by the recessed panels with Gothic carving on the legs, seat rails and stiles, the Gothic lancets with trefoil carvings on the back, the Gothic finials that crown the stiles, and the bold Gothic arch across the back.

Description quoted from Feld, Elizabeth and Stuart P. Feld, In Pointed Style. New York: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., 2006, p. 85.