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A MAGNIFICENT QUEEN ANNE CARVED WALNUT ARMCHAIR
A MAGNIFICENT QUEEN ANNE CARVED WALNUT ARMCHAIR
A MAGNIFICENT QUEEN ANNE CARVED WALNUT ARMCHAIR
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A MAGNIFICENT QUEEN ANNE CARVED WALNUT ARMCHAIR
15 More
PROPERTY FROM THE WUNSCH COLLECTION
A MAGNIFICENT QUEEN ANNE CARVED WALNUT ARMCHAIR

PHILADELPHIA, CIRCA 1755

Details
A MAGNIFICENT QUEEN ANNE CARVED WALNUT ARMCHAIR
PHILADELPHIA, CIRCA 1755
top of front rail and inner rear rail incised IIII; with its original walnut and yellow pine slip-seat frame similarly marked. Chair frame impressed G.B.WOOD on underside of rear rail and on underside of front rail; slip-seat frame impressed with names of previous owners and dates of acquisition: John & Mary Ann Bacon 1801, Geo. B. Wood 1859 and Mary May DUNN 1909; currently fitted with a replaced damask-covered slip-seat frame with the original slip-seat frame housed separately
45 1⁄2 in. high
Provenance
Job Bacon (1735-1801), Greenwich, New Jersey and Philadelphia
John (1779-1859) and Mary Ann (Warder) Bacon, Philadelphia, he the son of above
George Bacon Wood (1832-1909), Germantown, Pennsylvania, grandson
Mary May (Wood) Dunn Comfort (1859-1936), Germantown and Staten Island, New York
E. Martin Wunsch (1924-2013), New York, by purchase from her descendants
Literature
Patricia E. Kane and Charles Montgomery, American Art, 1750-1800: Towards Independence (New Haven, CT, 1976), p. 146, cat. 92.
"Make Americana Great Again: The Wunsch Family Has a Plan," The Magazine Antiques (January 2017).
Exhibited
New Haven, Connecticut, The Yale University Art Gallery and London, England, The Victoria and Albert Museum, American Art, 1750-1800: Towards Independence, 3 April-23 May 1976 (New Haven) and 15 July-26 September 1976 (London).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015-2021.

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Sallie Glover
Sallie Glover Associate Specialist, Americana

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Lot Essay

A triumph of Philadelphia design, this armchair displays a mastery of curvilinear form. Throughout, the chair’s component parts move through space in a series of arcs that curve in multiple dimensions, a complex design that results in a deceptively simple and harmonious whole. Exemplifying the mid-eighteenth century Queen Anne style, the carved embellishments are minimal and allow for full expression of the graceful lines. At the time it was made, the workmanship required made this chair a costly form, that it was part of a set of at least eight armchairs made it part of an exceedingly luxurious commission. While sets of armchairs are occasionally recorded in eighteenth-century inventories, this chair and others from the same original set represent the only known survival of such a suite. Based on numbering on the chairs’ frames and slip-seats, this suite consisted of at least eight chairs, six of which are known today (see below).

This armchair is further distinguished by its old surface and, of the surviving examples, the chair bearing the earliest known history. Impressed in the original slip-seat frame are the names of previous owners and dates, which correspond to the death dates of family members from the previous generation and suggest the dates on which subsequent family members obtained ownership of the chair. The earliest of these reads John & Mary Ann Bacon 1801, a date that coincides with the death of John’s father Job Bacon (1735-1801). Four of the other five known examples from the set survive with later nineteenth or early twentieth century histories: John Jay Smith (1798-1881) of Philadelphia, the Latourette-Staats family of Bound Brook, New Jersey, the family of Eleanor (Thomson) Mullen (1902-2001), Philadelphia and the Biddle family.

Thus far, genealogical research has failed to find a common eighteenth-century ancestor and as has been proposed, it is very likely that this set of chairs had an association with an institutional setting before being dispersed prior to the end of the eighteenth century. From fire companies and freemasons to fishing clubs and libraries, eighteenth-century Philadelphia abounded with small gatherings of like-minded individuals and it is conceivable that these chairs were ordered for one of these groups. When chair V sold in 2006, it was argued that the chairs were made for the Loganian Library as one of the chairs at Winterthur Museum was previously owned by John Jay Smith (1798-1881), a later director of the Library and a direct descendant of James Logan (1674-1751) who acquired the chair in 1878, the year the Library was relocated to Ridgeway Library (Sotheby’s, New York, 7 October 2006, lot 318).

Another possibility is the Pennsylvania Hospital. Among the few Philadelphia inventories to record sets of armchairs is that of Joshua Crosby (d. 1755), the hospital’s first president. As recorded by Willliam MacPherson Hornor, Crosby’s estate included “8 Walnut Elbow Chairs” in the front parlor and an additional “6 Elbow chairs” in the front hallway (William MacPherson Hornor, Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture (Washington D.C., 1935), p. 215). A prosperous merchant in Jamaica, Crosby along with his nephew, Thomas Crosby (d. 1765), removed to Philadelphia in 1746. Crosby laid the first stone of the hospital’s building on May 29, 1755, about a month before he died. On June 30th of that year, a meeting of managers was held “in the room of Joshua Crosby, deceased” whereupon Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Crosby were chosen President and manager respectively (Pennsylvania Gazette, July 3, 1733, p. 2). With a total of fourteen armchairs available, Joshua Crosby’s interior would have well accommodated the twelve members of the Hospital’s management and its treasurer (see J. Harold Johnston, “Some Account of the Pennsylvania Hospital,” The Journal of the Rutgers University Library, vol. VIII, no. I (December 1944), pp. 2-3). Linking the suite of armchairs owned by Crosby to the set represented by the chair offered here is John Smith (1722-1771), one of the managers of the hospital in 1755 and the grandfather of John Jay Smith (1798-1881), the previous owner of one of the chairs from this set at Winterthur Museum.

As suggested by the names recorded on the slip-seat frame, the earliest known owner of this chair was Job Bacon (1735-1801). Born in Greenwich, New Jersey, Job Bacon was a hat-maker and merchant in Philadelphia who resided at No. 10 Third Street, near Market Street. In 1764, he is listed as one of the new contributors to the Pennsylvania Hospital (Pennsylvania Journal, 5 July 1764, p. 1) and later in the century, he administered the estates of a number of prominent individuals, providing additional potential sources for the acquisition of this armchair. His son, John Bacon (1779-1859) is the next recorded owner on the slip-seat frame. A treasurer of the city of Philadelphia from 1816 to 1829, John married Mary Ann Warder (1782-1863) and their daughter, Eliazabeth Head Bacon (1807-1847) married Horatio Curtis Wood (1803-1879). Their son, George Bacon Wood (1832-1909) is the next presumed owner as his name appears on the slip-seat frame as well as in two impressed marks, G.B.Wood on the chair frame. An artist and photographer, George Bacon Wood resided at 6708 Germantown Avenue in Germantown and this chair features in one of his photographs, that of his aunt Hannah Davis (Wood) Curtis (1809-1889), now at the Library Company, Philadephia. In 1900, George Bacon Wood was living in Staten Island, New York with his daughter, Mary May (Wood) Dunn (1859-1936), the last family owner whose name is impressed on the slip-seat frame.

For the other five examples surviving from this suite with their markings and earliest known owners, see Christie’s, New York, 22 January 2016, lot 67, unmarked, by descent to Eleanor (Thomson) Mullen (1902-2001); Sotheby’s, New York, 7 October 2006, lot 318, chair marked V; two examples at Winterthur Museum (marked VIII, John Jay Smith (1798-1881) of Philadelphia and marked III, Latourette-Staats family of Bound Brook, New Jersey, acc. nos. 59.2500 and 59.2501 respectively); another example known only by its publication, John Walker, Experts Choice: 1000 Years of the Art Trade (New York, 1983), p. 129 (Biddle family).

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