Museum of The City of New York

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For my Art Exhibition Response Paper, I spent a day in New York City to see the Museum of the City of New York’s Furniture and Decorative Arts Collection. This exhibit displays New York City furniture and art styles from the late seventeenth century to the early twentieth century. In the exhibit, one learns how manufacturing played a crucial role in New York City during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It added growth to the economy and as well as change to furniture and art styles. Rare and extraordinary ceramics are in the exhibit under the decorative arts collection. These pieces in the ceramic collection connect to important events, people and developments in New York City during this time. In the Furniture and Decorative Arts Collection, there was a glassware collection as well as the ceramics collection. Glassware was a significant part of the New York City’s domestic trade and import industries. The glass industry was developed in New York under Dutch and English administration. The main feature in this collection is from Philip Home which was a rare group of Tiffany glass.

After spending the semester studying furniture from different styles and time periods, I was thrilled to be able to see this exhibition, as it was a way to connect what I have learned to the furniture designs and styles in the exhibt. The exhibition emphasizes how furniture production and cabinetmaking was before the twentieth century. Below, I will be examining my favorite pieces from the collection and connecting those pieces back to my favorite styles and furniture from my timelines, comparing the differences between the styles while also pointing out the similarities. To begin, furniture from Bryson Burroughs, 1869-1934, and Willard Parker Little is seen in the exhibition in their Armchair from 1905. This is an Adam Revival armchair, that has a maple veneer, cane seat and painted detail. The Adam style is an eighteenth-century neoclassical style that was created by three Scottish brothers, John, James, and Robert Adam.

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The Adam style was mostly connected to James and Robert Adam as John Adam was never praised in the architecture world as highly as his brothers. This armchair has a red cushion that sits on top of the cane seat. The two outsides painted panels under the cane seat show two birds flying with a piece of rope or jewelry between them. The middle panel has a green background with painted gold details. Bird details are seen again along the top of the chair and other painted decoration show female figures on the front legs with two male faces above the women where the leg meets the cane seat. The airy design of Bryson Burroughs and Willard Parker Little’s armchair can also be seen in their other furniture designs at the Museum of the City of New York. The armchair is accompanied by a settee, chairs and a demi-lune table. The demi-lune table is an Adam Revival console table, which is a unique semi-circular shape that is meant to stand against a wall.

The settee is an Adam Revival as well, with gray-blue silk cushion seats. The armchair and settee have identical painted decoration, only the settee has the appearance of two chairs pushed together without a center arm. The table has the same bird decoration as the chair and settee across the front panels. Another armchair in the exhibition is from Duncan Phyfe, titled Armchair from 1815-1825. Duncan Phyfe was a Scottish immigrant, who settled in the United States in 1784. Phyfe did not create his own furniture style but rather integrated popular European furniture styles to develop finely made furniture that fits perfectly into the American home. The Duncan Phyfe style is known for its balance and symmetry. Each design is created to make a whole piece that fits perfectly in the home and does not seem out of place or awkward. Its inspiration closely connecting to the Neoclassical style, which is inspired by classical elements and designs from ancient Greece and Rome. It is often referred to as the Louis XVI style.

The materials that Phyfe used for this piece of furniture are painted and gilded maple, ash, poplar, and silk upholstery. The armchair features tall black legs with gilded brass details, the claw foot legs being one of those details. Gilded brass is brass that has a coat of a very thin layer of gold. Details using the gilded brass are also seen on the front, arms, and backing of the armchair. The upholstery of the chair is a dark green that compliments the gold elements on the piece. This armchair has many characteristics that were covered during the semester, first being the claw foot legs. Duncan Phyfe’s Curule-Base Settee was a piece that I presented on one of the timelines to represent a sofa from the romanticism time period. The 1810 design features carved mahogany, silk upholstery, and brass. Despite the settee having smaller claw feet, the settee and armchair share the similarity of the golden detail at the bottom of the chair. However, the similarity, the armchair only features the claw feet on its front legs while the settee has the element on all four legs.

Both Ducan Phyfe furniture pieces are designed with silk upholstery, although the armchair is a dark shade and the settee features a lighter green with green line details. These line designs are two thin lines outside one thick line pattern. A major difference between the armchair and the settee is that the settee has curule legs. My favorite piece in the collection is Fall-front Secretary [Brinckerhoff secretary] from 1710-1717. The reason that this was my favorite piece of furniture in the collection was due to the imagery of nature. The cabinetwork has Welsh roots with its vine and berry pattern in beech, walnut and other woods, a beautiful reference to nature. The secretary has three separate sections with the lower part sits on the bun feet. The lower section has two drawers with round pulls on both sides of the center lock. The center section is a fall front and the molding or cornice rests on the top section. Both the fall front and the secretary flap are bolstered by brass hinges and have since been lined with replaced baize surface.

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Museum of The City of New York. (2022, Mar 11). Retrieved from

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