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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 Made1760-90
  • Place MadeUSA: New York, New York
  • MaterialsWood; Mahogany; Red Oak; Yellow-Poplar; Hickory
  • Measurements27 5/8x34x16 1/2 in. (70.1x86.4x41.9 cm)
  • Funds donated by Dorothy Jordan Chadwick Fund
  • RoomThe Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room
  • Accession #1975.0025

Card Table

In 1973, Morrison H. Heckscher of the Metropolitan Museum of Art published an in-depth study of the design and construction of New York rococo style card tables, a type of furniture generally considered to be among the most successful of American designs.[1]  This table is of the group identified by Heckscher as “Type II,” a body of work distinguished by its light, elegant lines, and by its exuberant asymmetrical carving in the rococo style on the knees of the front legs.  (The three rear legs are not carved.)
 As with much eighteenth-century furniture, this table was made to be placed against the wall when not in use.  The deeply incurved, serpentine sides of the table facilitate its being lifted and moved by one person.  The flyleg, in the open position, reveals a “secret” drawer often found in similar tables.  The top is lined with green baize and is shaped with shallow wells for counters and with square corners for candlesticks, all for the benefit of enthusiastic colonial card players enjoying a game of whist, loo, quadrille, or another popular game.
According to tradition, this example descended in the Varick family, long associated with New York. The most prominent member of the family in the eighteenth century was Richard Varick (1753–1831), mayor of New York City from 1789 to 1801.  Richard played an active role in the American Revolution, first as an aide to Benedict Arnold, and then, after being exonerated of any connection with Arnold’s treason, as confidential secretary to George Washington.  He pursued a busy career in politics and public service after the Revolution.  Although the precise line of descent of the card table is not known, Richard, who did not have children, or his brother Abraham (1750–1810), a successful merchant, are possible candidates as the original owner.[2]
Gerald W.R. Ward
1. Heckscher 1973.
2. See DAB, s.v. “Richard Varick”; Catalogue of American Portraits, 2:840; Smith 1972, 56–57; Patterson, 72, 87, 93, 223.