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THE SILSBEE FAMILY FEDERAL CARVED MAHOGANY SOFA
ANOTHER PROPERTY
THE SILSBEE FAMILY FEDERAL CARVED MAHOGANY SOFA

ATTRIBUTED TO SAMUEL MCINTIRE (1757-1811), SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS,1790-1810

Details
THE SILSBEE FAMILY FEDERAL CARVED MAHOGANY SOFA
ATTRIBUTED TO SAMUEL MCINTIRE (1757-1811), SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS,1790-1810
retains an old and possibly original finish, center rear legs of a later date
38½ in. high, 76 in. wide, 25 in. deep
Provenance
Probable line of descent:
William Silsbee (1779-1833), Salem, Massachusetts
Benjamin Hodges Silsbee (1811-1880), Salem, son
Francis Henry Silsbee (1852-1913), Salem, son
Francis Briggs Silsbee (1889-1967), Lawrence, Massachusetts, son
Henry Briggs Silsbee (1923-1997), Stony Brook, New York, son
Literature
Samuel Chamberlain, Salem Interiors: Two Centuries of New England Taste and Decoration (New York, 1950), p. 138.

Lot Essay

This superbly carved sofa is an elegant realization of the neoclassical tradition in American cabinetmaking brought to fruition by expert carver Samuel McIntire (1757-1811) in Salem, Massachusetts at the turn of the nineteenth century.

This sofa gracefully combines English innovations in furniture design with McIntire's ingenuity and artistry. Developments in European design were outlined in Thomas Sheraton's 1793 edition of The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing-Book. Sheraton's designs were swiftly adopted by contemporary American premier cabinetmakers. The shape and construction of this sofa derives directly from Sheraton's Plate 35, a square-back sofa with free-standing arm supports that are a continuation of the front legs. Sheraton's sophisticated design is augmented by exquisitely carved embellishments on the crest rail, arms and legs of this sofa. This ornamentation is anchored by a carved basket of fruits and flowers on the crest rail, the most recognizable decorative element in McIntire's oeuvre. More than 100 distinct examples of this decoration are found on pieces of furniture and architectural elements attributed to McIntire but no two are identical. This version is similar to those found on other square-back sofas made in Salem after 1805 (see Dean T. Lahikainen, Samuel McIntire: Carving an American Style (Salem, Massachusetts), p. 151.). The ornately woven body of the basket stretches to fill the width of the star-punched crest rail as narrow rows of fruits and flowers spill over its delicate, elongated edges.

This sofa sat in the drawing room of the family home of Nathaniel Silsbee (1773-1850), a prominent ship captain, merchant and politician in post-Revolutionary Massachusetts (fig. 1). According to a personal history published posthumously by his son in 1899, construction of the Silsbee family home, a brick Revival-style house overlooking Salem Common, began in the summer of 1818. The home was lavishly furnished and decorated by Silsbee's wife, Mary Crowninshield (1778-1835), the daughter of shipping magnate George Crowninshield (1733-1815) and the niece of Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799), the wealthiest member of Salem's merchant elite and Samuel McIntire's most important patron. The house underwent significant renovation when it was inherited by Nathaniel Silsbee, Jr., in 1850. The home remained in the Silsbee and Kimball families until 1907 when it was donated to the Knights of Columbus and still stands today.

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