Mark Hopkins House Side Chair, ca. 1878–80
This is a side chair. It was made by Herter Brothers. It is dated ca. 1878–80 and we acquired it in 2010. Its medium is rosewood, inlaid and veneered with various woods, silk (of the period but not original). It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.
Herter Brothers was the foremost American producer of high-quality Renaissance Revival and Aesthetic movement furniture. The firm developed an international reputation and transformed American furniture from a domestic market to that of export as well. The Herter Brothers, Christian and Gustave, were German-born highly-skilled craftsmen who worked in New York during the second half of the 19th century. Gustave emigrated from Wurttemberg in 1848 and already owned a leading cabinetmaking and interior decorating company by the time he was joined by his brother in 1859. Christian became a full partner in what became Herter Brothers in 1864, after which the firm’s business greatly expanded. Christian returned to France between 1868 and 1869 and traveled to England in 1870 before returning to New York. The brothers drew from their European training and travels to create cosmopolitan interiors and furniture for clients all over the United States and in England as their business developed.
This chair is an early example of Japonism in American furniture. It is a superb expression of high quality craftsmanship and design of Aesthetic movement American furniture. Made of rosewood with contrasting lighter woods, the chair displays a finely inlaid crest rail, entirely Japanese in inspiration. The inlay’s motifs relate to other decorative arts, including textiles, and the side stretchers have a three-circle design that is seen on other Herter chairs of Japonesque inspiration. The chair was originally made for the Mark Hopkins House in Nob Hill in San Francisco as part of a larger commission to complete the decoration of the residence.
A similar chair was designed for the Red Room of the White House in 1875, which demonstrates that Herter Brothers had adopted Japonism prior to 1876, when the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia brought Japanese design to a broader audience. Even with the Centennial, little Japanese influence entered the design vocabulary prior to 1880 in the United States, with the exception of silver. Christian’s stay in Paris and visit to London, where he noted the Japanesque Aesthetic style architecture and design of E. W. Godwin, undoubtedly played a role in the early date of Herter Brothers’ Japanesque designs.
This will be the first example of Herter Brothers furniture in both the museum’s collection and the collection of the Smithsonian. The only examples on view in Washington have been on loan from the White House to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. As the foremost American furniture firm of its era, Herter Brothers are significant figures in design history and should be represented in the national design collection.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 88.9 x 43.2 x 44.5 cm (35 x 17 x 17 1/2 in.)
It has the following markings
On underside of side stretcher: Herter numbers "#4649"
It is inscribed
Photo of one chair in set shows pencil inscription "Hop.." for Hopkins
Cite this object as
Mark Hopkins House Side Chair, ca. 1878–80; Made by Herter Brothers (United States); USA; rosewood, inlaid and veneered with various woods, silk (of the period but not original); H x W x D: 88.9 x 43.2 x 44.5 cm (35 x 17 x 17 1/2 in.); Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund; 2010-5-1