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Ottomans (Set of Two)

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Ottomans (Set of Two)

Artist: John A. Davies (Utica, New York; active 1850-1900)

Date: 1859-1869
Medium: Mahogany veneered wood with Berlin work upholstery
Overall: 16 1/2 × 20 × 16 3/4in. (41.9 × 50.8 × 42.5cm)
Signed: label on bottom
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph W. Kyser
Object number: 80.14.1-2
Label Text
This ottoman retains its original horsehair upholstery enhanced with embroidery called Berlin work. Horsehair cloth is woven of the hair of horses' tails combined with cotton, worsted wool, or linen. Due to its durability and a sheen that resembles more expensive silk, black horsehair fabric was one of the most popular middleclass upholstery treatments during the nineteenth century.

Berlin work is a style of embroidery that was traditionally executed in many colors to produce an intricate three-dimensional look. This example also includes a plush stitch, a high-relief pile of the wool that was sheared to create three-dimensional flowers. Berlin wool work patterns, first published in Berlin, Germany, in the early nineteenth century, gained popularity in England when displayed at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. Ladies' periodicals, such as The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, included Berlin work patterns.

John A. Davies established a business in Utica in the 1850s. Located on Liberty Street, the Davies firm made a variety of furniture including chairs, sofas, and ottomans. As one of the few cabinetmakers in the city, the Davies firm, according to its advertisement, also provided "Carriages and Hearse[s], Ready Made Coffins."