Bergere

By George Bright , ca. 1797

Mahogany, ash, leather, 32 x 24 x 21 1/2 in.

Purchased for the new State House, 1797.

Boston cabinetmaker George Bright (1726–1805) made thirty of these barrel-backed chairs for the "Agents for building the new State House." The bergere form had been popular in Europe since the early eighteenth century. It is characterized by a continuous upholstered back and closed sides, and usually has a loose cushion on its deeper-than-usual seat. The State House examples end in fluted arm supports. Only one remains here, and is among the earliest documented pieces of furniture in the collection. The other chairs were dispersed among members of the legislature during the mid-nineteenth century—most are now in museums, including the Bostonian Society, Historic New England, and Winterthur. A reproduction stands nearby.

Another, larger set of mahogany bergeres, covered in black horsehair, dates to the early nineteenth century. These have the characteristic fluid back and sides, but feature taller frames with splayed crest rails and scroll arms that date to the later Empire and Directoire styles.

Among the many other examples of New England furniture in the room is a set of twentieth century Jacobean Revival high-backed arm chairs with black upholstery. The style is easily identified by its tall sloped back, long slender arms, and carved legs and stretchers that recall the handcrafted character of early seventeenth century English furniture. Three variations of this chair are among the nine on view. Five bear the name of their former occupants, including William Saltonstall and Kevin Harrington.

furniture of Bergere