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Two Armchairs, circa 1880
execution attributed to Herter Brothers
gilt wood, fabric upholstery
30 1⁄2 x 28 x 25 1⁄2 in. (77.5 x 71.1 x 64.8 cm)
28 3⁄4 x 25 1⁄2 x 24 1⁄2 in. (73 x 64.7 x 62.3 cm)
impressed 574 and 575 respectively
C.C. Harrison, Woman’s Handiwork in Modern Homes, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1881 (frontispiece plate)
A. Lewis et al., The Opulent Interiors of the Gilded Age, All 203 Photographs from "Artistic Houses", New York, 1987, pp.134-135, pl. 142
Post lot text
Christie’s would like to thank Pascale Patris, Objects Conservation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, for her assistance researching this lot. Christie’s would also like to thank Laura Jenkins, Phd. Candidate at Courtauld, United Kingdom, for her assistance researching this lot.

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Lot Essay

‘The disposition toward elaborate decoration is stronger than at any previous time, and brilliant effects are sought, with, however, the modifying accompaniment of good taste’ – Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1883

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) was destined to be in the arts. The son of renown artisan and jeweler Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of one of New York’s first jewelry houses Tiffany & Co., Louis Comfort Tiffany witnessed first-hand the American entrepreneurial spirit and learned the business acumen needed for growth. Beginning as a painter of watercolors, Tiffany traveled extensively and found inspiration in foreign cities including Paris, Rome, Madrid, Tangiers, and Cairo. While painting propelled Tiffany as a burgeoning artist of New York, it was the Decorative Arts that captured his attention and shaped his reputation of today.
In 1879, Tiffany established numerous collaborations with contemporaries such as Samuel Colman (1832-1920), Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932), and Candace Wheeler (1827-1923). One such partnership was Associated Artists, a firm focused on ‘a combination for interior decoration of all sorts’. This new era of house decoration included designers who produced wallpapers, textile designs, glass objects, lamps, and furniture. In 1884, Harpers New Monthly Magazine wrote of the association, ‘each member of the advisory firm should be a specialist of skill and ripe culture. This was done; and the results they have brought about may, without exaggeration, be called the first fruits of the American Renaissance.’
The designs of these artists incorporated many ideals of the Aesthetic movement, such as flat patterns and exotic references, as seen in important commissions brought to Tiffany. One such commission was the mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street in New York, the George Kemp House. Tiffany was hired to decorate the major rooms of the house, including the entrance hall, drawing, dining, and library. A model of an armchair related to the present lot is seen placed in this library, circa 1883. An illustration of a related model is also depicted in Tiffany’s designs for Womans Handiwork in Modern Homes, by Constance Cary Harrison, published by Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1881.
Later commissions for Tiffany included an upgrade to the Union League Club House, at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-ninth Street (1880-1881) and the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue in New York (1881-1879) where collaborative efforts were made with other major workshops such as Herter Brothers, Pottier & Stymus, and Kimbel & Cabus. The Herter Brothers firm (active 1864-1907) is synonymous with American design at the turn of the century, as arbiters of taste and new style. Similar to Associated Artists, everything from the wall treatments, floors and furniture were crafted by Herter Brothers workshop. Interestingly, while the present armchair is not documented as a model executed by Herter Brothers, the numbering to the back leg is consistent in their production of the time. Several executions of this armchair model are known, each with a different engraved number, leads one to believe the design for these armchairs could be customized based on project or commission.
This style of bespoke interior design encapsulated the Gilded Age in America during the last quarter 19th century: the international interest in American design where firms such as Associated Artists, and by association Louis Comfort Tiffany, could capitalize on the appetite and rapidly increasing consumption of their craft.

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