This sofa demonstrates the superb skills of sculptor-cabinetmaker Gustave Herter. It compares closely with a documented suite of furniture produced by Herter in about 1860 for the Ruggles S. Morse house in Portland, Maine. The suite and sofa follow the lines of Herter’s only known sketch and were probably inspired by the designs of Frenchman Alexandre-Georges Fourdinois. Fourdinois exhibited similar examples at the 1855 Paris Universal Exposition and his designs were reproduced in John Braund’s Illustrations of Furniture, Candelabra, Musical Instruments from the Great Exhibitions of London and Paris (1858).
Gustave Herter arrived in New York City in 1848 from Stuttgart, Württemberg, one of many Germans compelled to emigrate following the economic crises of the 1840s. His arrival coincided with New York’s ascension as the center of the American cabinetmaking industry. By 1858, he had established his own company. Six years later, supporting one hundred men, he partnered with his brother, Christian, to form Herter Brothers. Upon Gustave’s return to Germany in 1870, Christian assumed responsibility for the business. The firm continued in operation until 1906.
David Park Curry, “What’s in a Frame,” in Eli Wilner, ed., The Gilded Edge in America (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000) p. 140, color ill. no. 106, p. 141.
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