11476 A LARGE PAIR OF ELEGANTLY DRAWN EBONIZED STOOLS À LA GRECQUE WITH PROBABLY ORIGINAL GROS POINT NEEDLEWORK SEATS DEPICTING A TURKEY AND A HAWK Probably North German. Circa 1820. Measurements: Width: 32 5/8″ (83cm) Height: 28 3/8″ (72cm) Depth: 19 7/8″ (50.5cm) Seat Height: 15 3/4″ (40cm).
Of ebonized wood and gilt brass. Each stool raised on four outswept sabre form supports united by a plain shallow seat rail and terminating in a voluted handrest set with gilt brass roundels. Each with turned molded cross rest. Both with probably original needlework seats depicting a turkey and hawk on a peach colored field.
This pair of stools is executed in the “monumental and unfrivolous” style à la greque. The shape of the stools is reminiscent of the ancient x-form and klismos seats as interpreted in neoclassical design, but is distilled to produce a design based on form and proportion, at the expense of decoration and ornament. An inventive character is present in the high curved arm supports.
While ebonized furniture of the early 19th century often has Viennese or Hungaro-Austrian origins, it should not be forgotten that, parallel to this, ebonized furniture was also being produced further north, not only in Denmark and England but also in Berlin, Leipzig and Weimar.
The design of such pieces can typically be linked to architects and designers from the circles of Friedrich David Gilly, Carl Haller von Hallerstein, Martin Friedrich Rabe and Karl Friedrich Schinkel. A drawing for an unexecuted ebonized gondole chair by Schinkel (figure 1), echoes the austere simplicity of line of the present stools. Additionally, a series of objects, also by Schinkel (1801), includes an interesting armchair (figure 2); while its design is more complex, comprising arms applied with griffon decoration, it nevertheless demonstrates similarities to the stools in the clean line of the outswept legs and the high outwardly-curving back.
The original needlework upholstery of each stool depicts a bird, one displaying a turkey and the other a hawk. The turkey is almost identical to that published by Friedrich Justin Bertuch in his 1800 Bilderbuch für Kinder (figure 3), strengthening the possibility that the stools were made somewhere between Berlin and Weimar in the early 19th century. Interestingly, Bertuch also edited the Journal des Luxus und der Mode in Weimar, which “exerted its influence on tastes in home decoration,” and presented Holzhauer’s furniture for Anna Amalia at Wittum Palace.
The scale of these stools indicates that they were originally made as part of a large set for a grand interior scheme, possibly forming part of the furnishings of a country house not far from Weimar, designed by Gentz or Rabe, as those architects were working in the area from 1802 and for some years onwards, using sketches by Schinkel.