Pottier & Stymus Egyptian Revival Set

by John Werry on July 27, 2008

img 1464 Pottier & Stymus Egyptian Revival Set

Quick post to address some of the comments on the previous post:

I now have the Egyptian Revival set by Pottier & Stymus in my possession and I’ve done some digging to see if the upholstery is original and based on a tip from Woodwright to look for tack holes other than those of the current upholstery, it appears the set indeed has the original upholstery (no other tack holes).

I found the “PS” markings to denote Pottier & Stymus under the mount on the skirt of the chair.

img 1462 Pottier & Stymus Egyptian Revival Set

I will be receiving two additional mounts shown below and one of the missing feet in the mail shortly. I assume the two heads are from the sofa that is now no longer with us in this world

img 2395 Pottier & Stymus Egyptian Revival Set

The red velour fabric is about 50% worn off of the set, there is significant fading or discoloration on much of the original tassels, and one of the chair backs is shattered and will need repairing so I am nearly set on reupholstering, while holding on to the original for posterity.

Much will need to be done to bring this set back to an acceptable state and it will take time, but I hope to bring you all along for the ride as the journey unfolds.

img 1465 Pottier & Stymus Egyptian Revival Set

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

misslilybart July 27, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I think that your inclination to reupholster is the correct approach, and will facilitate the needed repairs.

IMO, the single-fabric mohair/cotton (?) plush, even if original, seems very “downmarket” and rather pedestrian for such high end furniture; the highly ornamented nature of the frames calls out for something complementary to act as a foil. (And no matter how I try, I cannot grok why there is heavy rope fringe across the front seat rail, covering not just gilded incising, but a projecting gilt mount…?)

For some examples of P&S Egyptian revival seating furniture w/ original upholstery, see the Met Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago sites; the Brooklyn Museum site has a chair with partial original upholstery that is a single fabric silk with tufting.

If you do elect to replace the existing upholstery, you can preserve all pertinent information by fully documenting the upholstery in situ, and as it is removed, and archiving the removed elements in an acid-free storage container.

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misslilybart July 27, 2008 at 4:38 pm

See http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/172947 for a related sofa sold by Fontaines in 2003.

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zeke July 27, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Hey John,

Congratulations on 2 super chairs. I think if you do them up right they will look as good as the P&S table in the MET “Jelliff room.

In Sept 1991 I was at a Fontaine’s auction and this P&S set went for a mere $3500!

http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j285/zekenstein/hp_scanDS_872620374958.jpg

The mounts were bronze cupids and the set needed some restoring but I’ve been kicking myself in the backside for 17 years for not having the money to buy it then.

I would think the upholstery is perhaps original, but maybe not the fringe. It would be stylistically wront to cover up that mount on the lower part of the seat with fringe!

At any rate, I do hope you take some videos of the restoration, it’s a very exciting find of high end victoriana.

Zeke

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Woodwright July 27, 2008 at 11:22 pm

I agree w/ misslillybart – the upholstery does not seem to be elaborate enough to really suit an ornate set. The ormolu mounts, the carving and ebonizing all suggest something better. I would expect to see a silk, at least some buttoning – something that makes more of a statement and screams opulence. You should lift a piece of upholstery (not just the gimp covering the tacks) to check for other/ old tack holes. Sometimes there will be fragments or threads left behind from previous upholstery when stripped. Good idea to save and preserve it of indeed it seems to be the original – can tell better at teardown.
The bullion fringe covering the mount on the front seems very odd too. The bullion fringe could have been added later I suppose, but I wouldn’t expect the designer (Pottier & Stymus) to incorperate a mount on the front, and then have it covered up by the upholstery trim (why bother putting it there if it doesn’t show?).
I think if it were mine – I would probably reupholster it too. Makes it beautiful, functional and appealling to most. I love Damask’s – a gold damask on a black background w/ gold gimp/ trim I think would look sharp and mirror the ebonized finish w/ gold ormolu mounts. Here’s a fabric I found w/ a quick search http://doiop.com/nse10o
The sofa shown from Fontaine’s (same one as in the Dubrow’s book …1860 – 1960 on p. 53) I’m sure is the same sofa style from your set. I’m not a big fan of striped fabric on Victorian furniture – to me it looks like it really belongs on Federal era furniture. The ormolu mounts pictured separately w/ the quarter confuse me. Obviously the hoof shaped mount is from the base of the leg (it looked like the left front leg of the arm chair was missing it’s mount in the pictures). The bust mounts are similar, but different than what is on the arm chair, or the sofa (shown from Fontaine’s). It has a breast collar/ plate below the neck – that is not on the arm chair or on the sofa pictured. The mounting holes are shown – but I can’t tell if they are a half mount (profile) or a full mount – in the round. I think they are a half mount looking through the mounting holes I only see fabric – not metal from the other side. I wonder if there was a table or stool or something else from the set they came off. woodwright

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zeke July 29, 2008 at 9:51 am

Hey John,

Here is a chair, probably by P&S as well, that has a lot of the same elements as your chairs. I’m posting it because it has very similar upholstery to yours. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that plain coverings may have been used. The chair has so many interesting things going on that perhaps a fancy cloth would compete with the wood and ormolu mounts. It’s tough because so little actual upholstery survives today. Remember that many chairs were covered with plain black horsehair back then.

http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j285/zekenstein/hp_scanDS_87299391331.jpg

(page 47 “Nineteenth Century Furniture, innovation, revival and reform” 1982)

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Marc Andrew July 29, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I was reading this post and I knew those Additional mounts looked familiar, even though it took me a few days to remember where I had seen them.

http://store.antiqueroom.com/egreliarands.html

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RareVictorian July 29, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Marc,
Thanks for the tip! I was scratching my head how they related to my set and it appears they used to have a different set or at least one piece from another design.

Zeke,
Thanks, yes that is also Pottier & Stymus. The lion heads, rosettes, and masques are like mine. Interesting that they say it is Cherry wood. I’ll have to look and see if mine is Rosewood or Cherry.

Misslilybart,
Thanks for the upholstery tips. I will probably take all the upholstery off myself and will get a better chance at looking for tack holes I didn’t see before. I think I want to pull the upholstery off soon as possible as they have that nice smell reminiscent of musty basements…. and it carries.

I will probably sell the spare mounts as I have no purpose for them.

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zeke July 29, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Here’s another one, this time from “The Knopf collectors guides to American antiques, furniture Volume 1″

http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j285/zekenstein/hp_scanDS_87291515125.jpg

The text states that this is also cherry. Again here the upholstery is a solid velvet material. Even though this upholstery is modern it may be that someone tried to match the original covering. Personally I think the chair deserves some outrageous ostentatious cloth on it. Silk damask or if you could find it, something with pyramids and sphinxes would totally rock! Look at the upholstery this set from the Antique room in brooklyn!

http://store.antiqueroom.com/egreliarands.html

Same mounts you have also on the sofa. If I was you I’d hold onto those ormolu mounts, if you ever found the sofa that was missing a mount!

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RareVictorian July 29, 2008 at 4:49 pm

I’ve got the perfect fabric ;-)

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zeke July 29, 2008 at 6:21 pm

*I’ve got the perfect fabric ;)*

I think August Pottier and William Stymus are rolling over in their graves at this very moment. :)

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misslilybart July 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm

zeke, does the Knopf Guide provide a cite for the provenance or ownership of the chair, or perhaps a photo credit? Thanks!

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zeke July 29, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Hey MissLily,

The only credit is the photo is taken by Chun Y. Lai and the chair is (was?) in the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum in Rochester, NY.
The book was published in 1982

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Woodwright July 30, 2008 at 12:45 am

Those are definately the mounts on the set at the Antique Room – mystery solved. I’m sure you noticed the price for their 2 pc. set – has to make you feel good about your purchase. I like the style of your set much better – it has a lot more character.
The mounts on the Set @ the antique room (and the loose set you have or are getting) don’t look like identical mirror images. The cheek bones are set differently and it makes the mount that shows the right side of her face look like she has a big nose (the left side looks fine). I really noticed the big nose on the closeup @ the antique room, yours is not as noticeable because of the wear and discoration (but it is if you study it) – but I think that’s the way the original patterns were made and all the sets are all cast off them and have the same differences.
When you look at the chairs zeke attached pictures of w/ the solid green velvet – the fabric to me does nothing for the chair – I think it takes away from it & looks pretty boring. For what it’s worth, I don’t like the upholstery on the set @ the Antiques Room either. The sphinx’s look whimsical – and the Moire looks both boring and just plain wrong. The right or wrong fabric can make (or break) a piece of upholstered furniture. Maybe you can figure out how to preview different fabrics on the computer before actually commiting (like was discussed about the Karpen sofa from Flomaton’s auction in an earlier post).
If you can’t find a sofa to match your chairs, you could always have one custom made – use your mounts to reproduce the castings and have one built (all dimensions, proportions and details could be taken off the side chair – then stretched ino a sofa – overall dimensions taken from the post by misslillybart) – it wouldn’t be an antique or made by Pottier & Stymus, but would complete the set (probably for less than an original would cost too).
I zoomed in on the photo of the top right side of the chair where the gimp was pulled back – it’s tough to tell for sure – but it doesn’t look like cherry to me. My best guess from the picture is Walnut or Rosewood. It looks like an open grained wood (cherry is a closed grain) and it doesn’t have the grain pattern of Cherry. I could be wrong – very tough to tell from a picture – I’m sure Rose Valley will be able to tell you. woodwright

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misslilybart July 30, 2008 at 11:57 am

zeke, thanks for the follow up. The Strong Museum deaccessioned a lot of their 19th century furniture collection a few years back. A green-upholstered suite matching the Knopf guide chair was sold at Sotheby’s in October of 2006. There is no mention made in the auction listing of the upholstery – either in terms of it being original or modern – or of the type of wood used (see http://tinyurl.com/5cnqg8). The listing does note that ‘An identical suite from The Collection of Pierre Bergé, Pierre Hotel, New York, sold Sotheby’s New York, November 30, 2004, lot 23.’

The ‘identical’ Pierre Bergé suite (http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ncgcl) is rosewood, with ‘velvet upholstery’ (surely not original, considering the provenance of the suite).

So… either the Knopf guide errs in its description, or Sotheby’s errs in describing the suites as ‘identical’… which may be neither here nor there, but certainly illustrates the necessity to view reference materials with a critical eye.

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RareVictorian July 30, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Received the 2 mounts and the hoof today. The two mounts are also marked P.S. and a model number.

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Marc Andrew July 30, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Misslilybart,

I dont see any mention of any defect in the green velvet set though it sold for almost $48,000 less. Considering that they list them as “Identical,” did someone seriously pay 48 grand for provenance/Upholstery taste?

Just wondering if I missed something or if you had any imput. Thanks!

RareVictorian,

If you decide to sell the additional mounts, let us know eh?

-Marc Andrew-

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RareVictorian July 30, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Someone got a bargain on that one set.

Lest it not be obvious, if anyone spots a stray sofa that matches my set come up for sale somewhere, please do pass it on.

Marc, will do.

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misslilybart July 30, 2008 at 6:23 pm

I don’t follow the market, but I think the price difference can be chalked up to a combination of variables: the nature of the sales – general Americana, where “Victorian” is the redheaded stepchild vs. single owner w/ celebrity caché, the immediate attractiveness of the suites, and certainly the “rock star” associations with both the fashion and decorating worlds cannot be discounted. Perhaps Egyptian Revival was just “hotter” in 2004 than it was in 2006? The pre-sale estimates does seem to indicate that the auction house expected the second set to sell for much less than the first… but I’m sure someone else will have a better handle on this than I.

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Woodwright July 31, 2008 at 1:26 am

Here’s are links to (2) P&S Egyptian Revival center tables that would complement your chairs nicely. The 2 are very similar – but also very noticeably different. Most notably the presence and absence of the mounts, and the top details. Auction table sold 1/18/04 Link: http://doiop.com/snob82 Met. Museum Table Link: http://doiop.com/4zjg55 Here also is a page from antiqiarian traders with some interesting info about Pottier and Stymus Link: http://doiop.com/7d326s woodwright

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Woodwright July 31, 2008 at 9:02 am

For the link to the (2) tables – don’t click the link @ the top of the page for the “full size image” – it will only bring up a small thumbnail. Scroll down the page and clik the picture to enlarge. The Image from the Met will enlarge twice if you again click the enlargement.

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