• Important American Furniture,  auction at Christies

    Sale 2287

    Important American Furniture, Folk Art, Silver & Chinese Export

    21 - 25 January 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 343

    THE BENJAMIN FRANKLIN QUEEN ANNE CARVED MAHOGANY BALLOON SEAT SIDE CHAIR

    PHILADELPHIA, 1750-1770

    Price Realised  

    THE BENJAMIN FRANKLIN QUEEN ANNE CARVED MAHOGANY BALLOON SEAT SIDE CHAIR
    PHILADELPHIA, 1750-1770
    Crest of a later date
    38½ in. high


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    Described as "the handsome old mahogany chair owned by Benjamin Franklin" in the 1892 Visitors' Guide to Mount Vernon, the present lot has a fascinating history intertwining two of America's most ardent patriots. According to tradition, this chair was originally owned by Benjamin Franklin and purchased by the prominent merchant Charles Macalester (1765-1832) at an auction of Franklin family possessions. With its rounded stiles, compass seat, shell-carved knees and claw-and-ball feet; this chair is representative of the height of third-quarter 18th century Philadelphia fashion. Clearly an outstanding example of craftsmanship, this chair would have undoubtedly been made for a man of Franklin's high social stature.

    The chair was passed down from Charles Macalaster to his son, Charles Macalester, Jr. (1798-1873) and then to his daughter, Lily Macalester Berghman Laughton (d. 1891). Ms. Laughton was a Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association from Pennsylvania and a prime benefactor of Mount Vernon. During her tenure from 1858-1891 she refitted the River Room (Drawing Room) at Mount Vernon with furnishings which were in part used by Washington during his stay in Pennsylvania. It was at this time she donated the present lot to Mount Vernon. The chair was later moved to the Library at Mount Vernon in the early 20th century. The 1926 Illustrated Handbook of Mount Vernon (Beck Engraving Co., Philadelphia,) clearly depicts the chair in the corner of the room on page 17. The image is also very similar to Fig. 2. The chair continued to reside at Mount Vernon until they deaccessed it at Sloan's Auctions in 1985. This lot offers a unique opportunity to own a piece of history that inadvertently connects two of America's most famous founding fathers.

    Provenance

    According to tradition, probably purchased by Charles Macalester (1765-1832) at an auction of Franklin family possessions
    Charles Macalester, Jr. (1798-1873)
    Lily Macalester Berghman Laughton (d. 1891)
    Gifted by the above to the Collection of George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, Mount Vernon, 1891
    Sold, Sloan & Kenyon, Chevy Chase, July 6-7, 1985, lot 1157
    Israel Sack Inc., New York
    Sold, Sloan & Kenyon, Chevy Chase, October 30, 1994, lot 2808
    Acquired at the above by the present owner


    Pre-Lot Text

    VARIOUS PROPERTIES


    Literature

    Elizabeth B. Johnston, "Visitors' Guide to Mount Vernon" (1891), p. 39-40.
    Esther Singleton,The Furniture of Our Forefathers, (New York, 1900), p. 123 (Illustrated)-124.
    Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association, "An Illustrated Handbook of Mount Vernon", (1926), p. 17 (Illustrated).
    Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association, "An Illustrated Handbook of Mount Vernon", (1936), p. 23 (Illustrated).
    Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association, "An Illustrated Handbook of Mount Vernon", (1968), p. 71 (Illustrated).
    Included in the list of 'Franklin Artifacts' on the official website of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary (www.benfranklin300.org).


    Exhibited

    Mount Vernon, George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, 1891 until 1980.