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The Renowned Collection

Barrel-Back Chair

This is the ultimate power chair of the new Republic.

Possibly Duncan Phyfe (b. Scotland, 1770-d. New York City, 1854)
Barrel-back chair, c. 1815-20
Mahogany, pine and unidentified softwood, modern horsehair upholstery
Gift of funds from Lila Acheson Wallace and other donors F76.29

Its form derives from English, French, and earlier ancient examples of chairs and thrones. The curved, upholstered back would have lent comfort, luxury, and status to the user. The elaborately carved paw feet references Egyptian design, while the waterleaf decoration above, squared rosette at the knees, and tight reeding along the crest are all all distinctively New York details.

The chair bears no label, but its ambitious, sophisticated design and execution suggest that it may have been made by Duncan Phyfe, New York’s premier cabinetmaker of the day. A note in Boscobel’s files names “John Brevoort” as having originally bought the chair in 1817. No documentation has yet been found to confirm this intriguing avenue for continued research.

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