Hailed by Morrison Heckscher as "the one brilliant exception" to the notion that pre-1800 era furniture from New York was uninspired, the five-legged Chippendale card table stands as the most celebrated and quintessentially New York form from the colonial period. This table, with its exquisitely rendered asymmetrical C-scroll carving and refined ball-and-claw feet, is a superlative example of the form.
As defined by Heckscher, these tables can be broadly placed into one of two categories based on their decorative designs and interior construction. Labeled as type I (Van Rensselaer) and type II (Beekman), these categories are named after families that owned typical examples of each type. With only a few variations, the table offered here falls squarely into the type II or Beekman category. Characteristics of this type seen on this table include a shallow, veneered skirt frame, gadrooned molding applied to the front skirt only, lack of carving on the rear legs and ball-and-claw feet with graceful tenons. The overall effect is a delicate design, which contrasts with the heavier style of the type I or Van Rensselaer tables. This table displays a few variations that suggest the work of an idiosyncratic carver. The highly naturalistic knee carving is embellished with circular incisions in the volutes of the C-scrolls and above the rocaille surround of the central C-scroll. Such incisions energize the design and are not typical of the group. Also, the gadrooned molding, while consisting of narrow lobes separated by fillets, like most in the type II group, is of a greater height like that typical of the type I group.
Furthermore, this table exhibits pine frame rails with mahogany veneers and straight inner edges mitered at each corner, the same combination of construction features seen on the type II tables. And, like one of the pair of tables that descended in the Beekman family, the back rail is shaped to suggest the contours of the front rail. Other survivals of type II or Beekman card tables are now in the collections of Winterthur Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of the City of New York and the State Department. See Morrison H. Heckscher, "The New York serpentine card table," The Magazine Antiques (May 1973), pp. 974-983. For the pair of card tables that descended in the Beekman family, see Sotheby's New York, January 21 and 22, 2000, lot 718.
In the early twentieth century, this table was owned by Robert Hartshorne (1866-1927). A noted collector whose eighteenth-century ancestors were prominent figures in New York and New Jersey, Hartshorne may have acquired the table through inheritance or purchase. An 1890 graduate of Yale University, Hartshorne married Margaret Willis and was a member of the University, Grollier and Century clubs. His collection of etchings, prints, rare books and maps was particularly renowned for its works by Cassatt, Whistler and Callot. See Robert Hartshorne, obituary, The New York Times, January 15, 1927; John S. Shepherd, letter to the Editor, The New York Times, January 21, 1927; Christie's New York, A Mary Cassatt Collection: Prints and Drawings from the Descendants of Robert Hartshorne, October 30, 2007.