I embarked on a research adventure, determined to learn as much as I could about these heavily carved chairs with gargoyle-like faces...
Made in New York City by RJ Horner, these chairs date back to 1890. They feature detailed carvings of shields, acanthus leaves and the faces of "griffins"; Greek mythical creatures with bird-like facial features. They are aptly known as "Griffin Chairs". I have yet to identify the face of the mustached man at the tops of the chairs, but I continue to read and research.
"In 1886, Robert J. Horner set up his business at 61-65 West 23rd Street in Manhattan. Horner took up where J&J.W. Meeks had left off in 1868. Horner reproduced "European novelties", but was also an innovator with new designs and always on the cusp of emerging trends. The company manufactured all their own goods at that time. They used fine mahogany and oak hardwoods to produce high style pieces that remain extremely popular with Victorian furniture enthusiasts today. Early items made by the firm included Louis XVI style drawing room suites, ornately carved oak dining sets and a variety of bedroom furniture. RJ Horner is also known for its two-sided partners desks, hall trees, parlor sets and high quality upholstered pieces. By 1891, Horner was also importing goods such as Venetian sideboards and Louis XV style writing desks, among other home furnishings. These items were advertised by Horner as being made abroad expressly for the New York store. By 1913, the company relocated its operation to 36th Street near Fifth Avenue. R.J. Horner then merged with George Flint’s company to form Horner and Flint in 1915.
The overall carving covering some R.J. Horner pieces is fairly distinctive. Many times they also included winged griffins and gargoyles, dolphins, caryatids, cherubs, and extensive gadrooning, which were all popular furniture embellishments during the late 1800s revived from earlier periods".
by Pamela Wiggins, Antiques Expert