Duncan Phyfe was born in 1768 in Scotland but immigrated to Albany, New York in 1784 to serve as an apprentice in a cabinetmakers shop at the tender age of 16. In 1792 he moved to New York City and opened his own business designing and producing furniture. He is now known as one of the most prolific furniture makers of his time. Borrowing ideas from Thomas Sheraton in England and using simple styles, Phyfe is well known for being one of the leading designers to use the lyre to enhance the beauty of a piece of an otherwise boring piece of furniture, such as a chair or table.
The lyre, sometimes known as a harp, design is nothing more than a representation of the ancient musical instruments that were played as early as the 13th century. Many furniture designers including Phyfe, Sheraton and Hepplewhite used the lyre design on chairs and tables and other furniture. The Lyre Back chair pictured is part of a collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The chair dates from about 1815-1820 and is thought to be only one of 24 produced by Duncan Phyfe. He is considered as good a designer as his predecessors in the field.
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