This is a pair of Victorian Renaissance Revival style chairs, Circa 1870-80. The Renaissance Revival style is often considered a reaction to the Rococo Revival, even though it was in use as early as 1850. It is characterized by an eclectic use of both Renaissance and 18th-century Neoclassical motifs on straight-lined forms loosely based on 16th-century French models. Porcelain, bronze, or mother-of-pearl plaques were popular embellishments on pieces within scribed, linear classical motifs. The Renaissance Revival styles of the1860s and 1870s marked the first period in which fine designs were used for mass-produced furnishings.
Furniture from the 1870s ranged from works made in shops employing skilled craftsmen to the products of large Midwestern factories. The New York shops, in particular, produced work with elegant detail and elaborate inlays, while the factories, centered primarily in Grand Rapids, manufactured pieces with turned and cut elements that could be produced more readily in volume and at lower cost. Since the Renaissance Revival style was based on rectangular shapes and prominent motifs, it could be successfully interpreted with either type of production.
Walnut was the most popular wood, with some veneer introduced as surface decoration. Light woods were favored in reaction to the prevailing dark woods of the Empire and Rococo Revival styles. Common motifs were flowers, fruit, cartouches, medallions, contoured panels, caryatids, scrolls, classical busts, and animal heads, as well as architectural elements, usually without any structural intent, such as pediments, columns, and balusters. Upholstery was prominently featured on chairs and sofas. Ornament from the then current Louis XVI Revival - popular with elegant New York cabinetmakers, who favored ebonizing and ormolu - was sometimes incorporated in the work of the 1860s. The style last peaked in popularity during the 1980's, demand and values for furniture of this type has fallen steeply since that time.