THE DESHLER FAMILY CHIPPENDALE CARVED MAHOGANY SIDE CHAIR
THE DESHLER FAMILY CHIPPENDALE CARVED MAHOGANY SIDE CHAIR

PROBABLY THE SHOP OF BENJAMIN RANDOLPH (1737-1791/2); THE CARVING ATTRIBUTED TO JOHN POLLARD (1740-1787), PHILADELPHIA, CIRCA 1769-1770

Details
THE DESHLER FAMILY CHIPPENDALE CARVED MAHOGANY SIDE CHAIR
PROBABLY THE SHOP OF BENJAMIN RANDOLPH (1737-1791/2); THE CARVING ATTRIBUTED TO JOHN POLLARD (1740-1787), PHILADELPHIA, CIRCA 1769-1770
en suite with both the preceding and following lot; with seat frame numbered V and yellow pine slip seat from original set numbered III
37 1/2 in. high
Provenance
The Deshler family of Philadelphia
Probable line of descent:
Esther (Deshler) Morton (1740-1787), Philadelphia
John Morton (c.1739-1828), Philadelphia, husband
Possibly John Morton (1776-1812), son of above and his wife Margaret Lea Canby (1778-1828)
Mary (Morton) Dillon (1810-1893), Zanesville, Ohio and Wilmington, Delaware, daughter
Possibly Margaret Morton (Dillon) Grimshaw (1847-1877), Zanesville and Philadelphia, daughter
Charlotte (Grimshaw) MacLear (1873-1962), daughter
Margaret Lea (MacLear) Ponder (b. 1906), daughter
Sold, Sotheby’s, New York, 26 June 1986, lot 133 (partial), consigned by above

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Lot Essay

In 1769-1770, carver John Pollard stood at the pinnacle of Philadelphia’s artisanal community and his ornament on this Deshler suite side chair exemplifies his extraordinary talents. Robustly modelled, yet remarkably delicate, the carving illustrates the quality of his workmanship and, carefully selected and thoughtfully placed, it also betrays his ingenuity as a designer. This side chair is one of eight side chairs as well as a pair of card tables and an easy chair that together comprise the known survivals of a suite of furniture made for the Deshler family of Philadelphia. As argued in the preceding lot, evidence from the objects themselves and from their known histories strongly indicates that they were made for Esther Deshler (1740-1787) around the time of her marriage in 1769. At this time, Pollard was an employee of renowned cabinetmaker Benjamin Randolph (1737-1791/2) and thus, the Deshler suite was most likely constructed in his shop.

As discussed in the preceding lot, the Deshler suite displays a vocabulary of ornament primarily derived from a Thomas Johnson design and the same motifs adorn other examples of furniture carved by Pollard in the late 1760s. A design for a ceiling, plate 11 of Thomas Johnson’s One Hundred and Fifty New Designs (London, 1761) (see lot 172, fig. 1) is a virtual blueprint for the Deshler suite and it is likely that Pollard had a copy on hand when he designed the ornament for the suite. Details seen on the chairs comprise the inverted leafy cluster headed by a bellflower, seen at the top center of the design and in carved form, on the lower central splat of the Deshler side chairs (fig. 2). Elsewhere on the ceiling design are the opposing C-scrolls and pendant bellflowers—the leitmotif of the Deshler suite—seen on all the knees of the forms in the suite.

Closely related iterations of these designs were used by Pollard on the commode-seat hairy-paw side chairs (fig. 4) made for General John Cadwalader (1742-1786) in circa 1769. The inverted leafy clusters on the splats of the Deshler suite are akin to the upper central ornament on the Cadwalader chairs’ splats—and both feature the delineation of a center leaf with lobed terminus, a detail also seen on Johnson’s design (figs. 2, 3). Though probably not carved by Pollard himself, but under his direction, the knees of the Cadwalader chairs feature the same basic layout, with the ornament centred by opposing C-scrolls with attendant leafage and bellflowers (see lot 172, fig. 6). The Cadwalader chairs and the Deshler suite also both illustrate a device favored by Pollard—a pendant arrangement of two short leaves, placed atop each other and scrolling in opposition directions. It is seen under the leafy cluster on the splat of the Cadwalader chairs (fig. 3) and below the ear and central crest ornament on the Deshler side chairs. A lavishly decorated marble-top table (see lot 172, fig. 3), dated from 1765 to 1770, also made for Cadwalader and carved by Pollard bears further similarities to the Deshler suite side chairs. In addition to a related leg design, the table makes frequent use of raised cabochons set within leafy sprays (fig. 1), a detail seen on the ears of the chairs. For additional similarities between these Cadwalader forms and the Deshler suite, as well as more on the Pollard and Randolph attributions, see the preceding lot.

The lineage of this chair and the example in the following lot can be traced directly to Esther Deshler. In 1986, Max and Betty Zaitz outbid Israel Sack, Inc. and acquired this pair of chairs at auction; a month later, the consignor of the chairs and last family owner, Margaret Lea (MacLear) Ponder (b. 1906), wrote to Mrs. Zaitz and enclosed a family tree outlining their descent from Esther Deshler’s son and daughter-in-law, John Morton, Jr. (1776-1812) and Margaret Lea Canby (1778-1828) (see lot 172, fig. 9). Five years later, Mr. and Mrs. Zaitz once again successfully outbid their competitors and the chairs were reunited with one of their matching card tables. Along with the Pollard-carved looking glass in lot 175, the four pieces provided a stunning ensemble in the couple’s entry hall.

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