Maker: Attributed to Pottier and Stymus Manufacturing Company (active ca. 1859–1910)

Date: ca. 1870–75

Geography: Made in New York, New York, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Rosewood, prickly juniper veneer

Dimensions: 37 x 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (94 x 69.9 x 69.9 cm)

Classification: Furniture

Credit Line: Funds from various donors, 1970

Accession Number: 1970.35.1


The nineteenth-century taste for Egyptian subjects, which developed first in Europe and America in the wake of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign of 1798, achieved widespread popularity in America in the 1870s. Americans embraced the Egyptian style: Verdi's "Aïda", commissioned to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, had its first American performance in New York in 1873; the 1872 memorial to the Union dead in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts was a sphinx; and Egyptian products were deemed suitable for inclusion in the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. While a number of New York cabinetmakers produced Egyptian revival furniture with motifs such as sphinx heads, animal feet, palmettes, and lotus leaves during the 1870s, the firm of Pottier and Stymus is most often associated with the style. This armchair and a matching side chair (1970.35.2) are not marked or labeled, but the attribution to Pottier and Stymus is supported by the cabinetmaker Ernest Hagen's description of their work "with brass gilt sphinx heads on the sofas and armchairs, gilt engraved lines all over with porcailaine [sic] painted medallions on the backs, and brass gilt bead moldings nailed on." These chairs were probably part of a larger suite; a matching armchair is owned by the Art Institute of Chicago and another matching side chair is in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The chairs retain their original French Aubusson-style tapestry coverings, although the once brilliant turquoise background has faded to the present wheat color.