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American Decorative Arts
Designer: Lockwood de Forest, American, 1850–1932
Manufacturer: Ahmedabad Wood Carving Workshop, 1881–1907
Group of Carved Architectural Elements from the Appleton House, Bronx, New York
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
This decorative woodwork was installed in 1891 in Wave Hill House, the Bronx country home of the publisher William Henry Appleton. Appleton’s house, overlooking the Hudson River, had been built by the jurist William Lewis Morris in 1843. After Appleton acquired it in 1866, he expanded it in 1866–69 and again in 1890. This woodwork was used in the latter expansion to provide an entrance to the new dining room and to partition a portion of that room for a breakfast room alcove. The commission also included teakwood chimney-piece decoration. For this project, Appleton hired the eminent interior designer Lockwood de Forest.
In 1881, when Lockwood de Forest was a partner with Louis Comfort Tiffany in the New York decorating firm of Tiffany & de Forest, he took an extended honeymoon touring India. There he become enthralled with the architecture he saw, particularly in the city of Ahmedabad. Inspired by the idea of using architectural elements from Ahmedabad’s historic buildings as sources for contemporary woodwork, he contracted with Muggunbhai Hutheesing to establish a workshop for wood carving and metalwork in Ahmedabad. His interest was not merely to import exotic goods but to preserve artisanal skills and craft techniques. The woodwork was produced by the mistri, a sub-caste of skilled woodworkers and stone workers within the Hindu caste system. Accompanied by Hutheesing and the head mistri, de Forest toured the streets of Ahmedabad to identify architectural elements on buildings that were to be used as models in the shop. De Forest paid to have professional photographs taken of these elements, which were transformed into his teak architectural interiors. Upon de Forest’s return to the United States in 1882, he and Tiffany dissolved their partnership, but de Forest continued to operate the Ahmedabad workshop into the first decade of the twentieth century. From his office in New York, he offered carved teak interiors to clients including his former partner Tiffany, as well as Frederic Edwin Church for his house Olana, near Hudson, New York; Emily and Franklin Mac Veagh, Potter Palmer, and Marshall Field and Company, of Chicago; James Clair Flood of San Francisco; Mary Garrett of Baltimore; Timothy Appleton Chapman of Milwaukee; and Andrew Carnegie of New York. From this list it is clear that de Forest’s clientele included many noteworthy figures of America’s Gilded Age.
Made in Ahmedabad, India
Designed in New York, New York
Owned in Bronx, New York
“Acquisitions 2009,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2009): 125.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.