This is a phenomenal settee with
exuberant carving throughout. It appears
quite animated with eagle heads at the ends of each arm followed by beautifully
developed reeding, all of which is supported by very distinctive carved claw
and ball feet. These feet are unusual, because they are not the standard
"hairy pawed" foot but a bird's foot, harkening to earlier
Chippendale claw and ball forms, and making a fitting complement for the eagle
heads above. A related carved foot can be seen on a similar
foot on a sofa on the second floor of the John Brown House in Providence, made
by the Rawson family of cabinetmakers. Also, the chestnut is a secondary wood
commonly used in Rhode Island furniture.
This extraordinarily carved sofa follows the general form of stylish New York
sofas of the late 1810s inasmuch as it has a reeded frame in front, stands on
animal paw feet, and has a rolled crest carved in three panels. The center panel
has opposed cornucopia; the flanking panels have “thunderbolts” (although only
three rather than the customary five); carved ribbons adorn the centers of all
three panels. Paired eagle heads at each side terminate the structural elements
forming the arms. These unusual carvings recall similar eagle heads on a
bedstead by Charles Honoré Lannuier of New York (see Peter M. Kenny, Frances F.
Bretter, and Ulrich Leben, Honoré Lannuier: Cabinetmaker from Paris [New
York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998], cat. no. 3). Rendering of the
feathered feet is unlike any other furniture of the 1810s and 1820s.
This sofa, which is somewhat later than the Classical Phyfe sofas that were
produced c.1810-20, is a vernacular derivative of New York Classical furniture.
However, it goes further with the creative eagle with feet motif than any of
the early New York ones did. It is less restrained and more free-flowing in
The desirable small size of this sofa inevitably raises the question of whether
it might have been reduced in length at some point. In its unupholstered state,
unequivocal evidence of oxidation and tack holes indicates that the frame has
not been altered in any way.
It is a pure form, and we have reupholstered it in a fine red fabric,
appropriate to the period.
An examination and identification report by Philip Zimmerman is available upon request.
Height: 36 1/4 in. Seat Height: 13 1/4 in. Length: 76 1/2 in.
Depth: 25 in. Seat Depth: 24 in.