My love affair with all things Chinoiserie, particularly Thos. Chippendale’s spin on the fashion, and my unflagging passion for 19th century revival styles is fulfilled in this wildly inventive chair.
In the “Modern French style”, what we call Rococo Revival, this chair is reminiscent certainly of Belter and his odd foliate carvings, but it has a very apparent lineage to Chippendale.
Unmistakably Victorian, heavy, a little clunky, the C-scrolls lack 18th cent. Rococo finesse, but the charm is apparent. Another successful 19th century play on period styles.
The magical HoHo bird proudly centered.
made in U.S.,possibly N.Y. or Philadelphia
approximate dimensions 46x18x24
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The HoHo has been a source of fascination for me since boyhood. He livened what I thought were essentially dull mirror designs. The Chippendale designs, available for my boyhood viewing in the Philadelphia region seemed to be pretty chaste affairs. The really whimsical, wacky stuff didn’t seem to cross the Atlantic. The occasional HoHo bird tickled my fancy.
gilt mirror detail
HoHo console decoration
My own curiosity led me to understand the origin of this funny little bird. Most likely he is a phoenix, stylized of course for Western eyes; more like a long plumed swallow then the flaming raptor of immortality. In my research I discovered that the Japanese word for the bird, he was imported from China, is Ho-o or Hou-ou. I am certainly not a scholar, but I would guess that to be the origin of the bird’s whimsical name.
Phoenix, image from Imari Porcelain ware
Nihom Toji Taikei magazine, vol. 19
One of a pair
Heian Era, 11 cent.
Amida Hall, Kyoto
typically a male and female face one another, this is often true of Chipprndale designs, as the bed below illustrates.
This is the fanciful design I would have loved seeing as a boy. That chilly Philadelphian Chippendale did not inspire.
My tastes have evolved, but I love the theatricality of this type of design.
I close with my own modest example of the ho-ho bird. I painted this on a Beverly Hills dining ceiling. It is a charming dining room for a charming lady who also shares my love of Ho-Ho birds, I painted as many as I could fit into the design.
Have a great weekend and good shabbos.