Designer: Alexander J. Davis (American, 18031892); Manufacturer: Probably Burns and Brother (New York City, active 185759)
Walnut (replacement upholstery); H. 39 5/8 in. (100.6 cm)
Gift of Jane B. Davies, in memory of Lyn Davies, 1995 (1995.111)
This delicate yet animated side chair is a masterful example of the Gothic Revival style. It has a beautifully composed back of open tracery and slender legs that spring from feet resembling diminutive deer's hooves. Davis, one of the preeminent architects of nineteenth-century America, worked in other revival styles as well as Gothic.
Sometimes Davis provided the interior and the exterior details of a house and, unlike most architects of the period, he also occasionally supplied furniture designs to select clients. This walnut chair is a version of a design he made about 1857 for John J. Herrick, the owner of a castle by Davis that once stood in Tarrytown, New York (Eristan; see 24.66.10). A few chairs have survived that can be firmly documented to Herrick's castle; all of them are of the same pattern as this one but are made of oak and are slightly heavier in scale. This chair may have been made for the same house or by the same furniture maker for another Davis commission. Although its exact origin remains unclear, the chair is one of the Museum's finest examples of Gothic Revival furniture. In addition, it complements the Museum's important archive of architectural drawings by Davis.