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A Monumental Mahogany Recamier with Dolphins and Eagles, c.1820

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The recamier is essentially a French-Empire form of Grecian couch, popularized and named after the famous painting by the French Neoclassicist, Jacques Louis David of Madame Recamier reclining on a similar couch. This recamier was the personal property of Joseph T. Butler and photographed in his book, American Antiques 1800-1900. (see scan), and was a favorite of his for very good reason: it makes a visually vigorous statement…from fish to birds. The crest rail, carved with rows of water leaves, terminate in the profile of an eagle head (see detail). The recamier has oak leafage throughout, the arm is developed with a dolphin with upraised tail (see detail). The rectangular seat rail is carved with a repeating oak leaf motif. The shaped foot rail is carved with large and anthemia on each side and all is raised on four fully carved sabre legs ending in elaborate bronze casters.

This unusual American example is a veritable showcase of Classical Greek and Roman motifs; the eagle, a symbol of power and authority was associates with Jupiter and Zeus; the oak leaf was sacred because Zues’ oracle of Dodona was located in an oak tree grove; the dolphin, a symbol of power of the sea was associated with Venus and Neptune. The waterleaf and anthemia, based on the lotus leaf were associated with the power of the sun and the generation of life.

Height: 38 3/4 in. Length: 76 1/2 in. Depth: 17 in.
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