Pair Fauteuils en Gondoles, about 1830–35
Mahogany (secondary woods: ash)
Each, 31 1/2 in. high, 21 1/8 in. wide, 21 1/8 in. deep (overall)
Marked (with incised stamps): I and II
EX COLL.: [art market, Beacon, New York, about 1987]; to private collection, 1987–97; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1997–98]; to private collection, and by descent, until 2013
One of the most popular forms of chairs made in France during the early years of the nineteenth century was the chaise gondole, literally gondola chair, in which the rounded plan of the chair actually enveloped the sitter, much like that of a more conventional barrel chair. The form was also used in England, and even enjoyed some popularity in the United States. The side chairs that are a part of the suite of furniture that Duncan Phyfe made for New York lawyer Samuel Foot in 1837, now in the Greek Revival Parlor in The American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, represent a type that became popular in the later 1820s and through that 1830s.
Like the whole genre of easy chairs in American Neo-Classical furniture, chaises gondoles with open or closed arms are extremely rare, only a very small number having been recorded. One of this group is published in Oscar P. Fitzgerald's Three Centuries of American Furniture (New York: Gramercy Publishing Company, 1982), p. 113 fig. VI-4, where it is simply called "American, ca. 1830." It is very likely of New York origin, as is this pair of chairs of virtually identical form but with handsomely veneered and scrolled backs instead of the upholstered back of the published example.
These chairs appear to be unique in form. Although adapted from a generic French form, they have been modified to create an indigenously American expression that would not easily be mistaken for French examples.