The aesthetic of the Egyptian Revival style was largely popularized in America by the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Exhibits in this remarkable spectacle inspired Herter Brothers and other firms to adapt Egyptian motifs in their designs. This beautifully executed ebonized, gilt and carved bedroom suite is an outstanding manifestation of this design aesthetic. Most likely made in a larger suite, this bed and dresser with their use of stylized feathers, flowers, hieroglyphics and architectural forms epitomize this design source.
Bedroom sets were typical of the work of Herter Brothers, as much of their work in the 1870s and early 1880s was to design complete home interiors. Suites such as the one offered here must have been in high demand, as according to Catherine Voorsanger, these suites constitute the majority of ebonized furniture that survives today (Howe, et al., Herter Brothers: Furniture and Interiors for a Gilded Age (Houston, 1994), p. 199).
Another ebonized bed by Herter Brothers that embodies similar architectural monumentality was made for Milton S. Latham and remains in the collection of his residence, Thurlow Lodge (see Howe, p. 49, fig. 30). The high headboard with gilt embellishments and centralized motif housed in a further pediment together with the footboard which echoes the enormity and shape of the headboard, make these beds both characteristic examples of Herter Brother's best ebonized work. For another ebonized bed, see Howe, pp. 198-199, cat. no. 36.
The dresser also incorporates Herter Brothers fondness for the monumental through the use of the large mirror plate. Throughout their interiors mirrors of this size were utilized (see Howe, frontispiece; p. 48, fig. 29). A similar and labelled dresser is offered in this sale, lot 461.