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  • American Skippet
    American Skippet
  • General Josiah Harmar
    General Josiah Harmar
  • Appeal to the Great Spirit
    Appeal to the Great Spirit
  • Hong Punch Bowl
    Hong Punch Bowl
  • Barter for a Bride
    Barter for a Bride
  • Artist/Maker
  • Date Madec. 1760-1770
  • Place MadeUSA: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • MaterialsWood; Mahogany; Southern Yellow Pine; Eastern Red Cedar; Eastern White Pine
  • Measurements40 in. H x 22 in. W x 16 3/4 in. D
  • Funds donated by Mrs. Frank Hollowbush.
  • RoomThe John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room
  • Accession #1974.0005

Side Chair

The unusual breadth of the splat, the exaggerated scale of the carved tassel and ruffle, and the pronounced contrast between carved and uncarved surfaces distinguish this chair (and its five mates, also in the Collection) from other American interpretations of Chippendale's engraved designs for "ribband-back" chairs.[1] Only in New York was this chair-back design as popular.[2] The overall design does not appear in any known pattern books; rather, it follows English or Irish prototypes that could have been imported here in the eighteenth century.[3]
Both carved and uncarved variants indicate the range of stylistic options from which patrons could choose according to their taste and means. Only one related set, believed to have been owned originally in the Penn family, displays the profusion of carved ornament found on this set of chairs.[4] The ruffle on the front seat rail, for example, is an unusual embellishment to which the shell is in turn applied. The carved acanthus leaves extending over the knees are another visual refinement shared by only a few other sets of Philadelphia chairs. Other details, such as the shell-carved ears, ruffled ornament at the center of the crest rail, carved shoe, and fluted stiles, added further to the considerable cost of these chairs. The commode seat frame is original.
Thomas S. Michie
1. The other five chairs in the Collection are 65.55.1–5, gift of Mrs. Frank Hollowbush; see Conger and Rollins Treasures of State, cat. no. 38. See also Smith 1970, 772; Fairbanks and Bates, 155.
2. For New York examples, see Downs 1952, cat. no. 52.
3. See Heckscher 1985, cat. nos. 27–29; Kirk 1982, 266, no. 934.
4. The so-called Penn family chairs are illustrated in Hornor 1935, pl. 335. For other variants with different amounts of carved ornament, see ibid., pls. 333–34.