47½ in. high
Israel Sack, Inc., New York, 1959
John S. Walton, Inc., New York, 1973
Israel Sack, Inc., American Furniture from the Israel Sack Collection, vol. I, (New York, 1969), p. 63, no. 200.

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Lot Essay

"The Philadelphia group, of which this is an outstanding example, represents the highest development in an American wing chair."
-Israel Sack, Inc., on the chair in lot 34, 1959

With its masterful composition of S-curves and C-scrolls, this easy chair pays homage to the curvilinear style of Chippendale-era America and demonstrates why its Philadelphia practitioners reigned supreme. Virtually every framing element incorporates a curved line, creating a dynamic design that with careful attention to proportion and placement, results in a balanced, unified whole. The chair's raking back, double out-scrolling arms and arm supports and raking rear legs are hallmarks of the Philadelphia school and contrast with the more upright and severe designs of New England. As noted by Israel Sack, Inc., above, the Philadelphia-style easy chair has long been considered the superior of the two by many of today's collectors and the same appears to have been the case for at least one eighteenth-century customer. When looking to furnish his newly built Providence home on Water Street, renowned merchant John Brown (1736-1803) turned to Philadelphia's chair makers. Two surviving easy chairs closely related to the chair offered here are thought to be those ordered by Brown in 1761 and 1764 from Philadelphia upholsterer Plunkett Fleeson (Wendy A. Cooper, "The Purchase of Furniture and Furnishings by John Brown, Providence Merchant, Part I: 1760-1788," The Magazine Antiques (February 1973), pp. 329, 332).

Details of the chair's design and interior construction are seen on a number of other examples and their repeated appearance en masse suggests the workings of a single shop. Including the two John Brown chairs discussed above, the group comprises about a dozen forms and is distinguished by knee returns with small volutes that lie against the inner edge, wing crests with a straight lower edge, front seat rails with a rear edge that conforms to the front edge, front legs that are dovetailed to the chair frame and downswept and chamfered raking rear legs (see figs. 1, 1a for another example). For each of these elements, the chair maker had other options, and illustrating a different set of choices is a group represented by the chair in figs. 2, 2a. The second group has peaked knee returns, wing crests with lower edges that echo the curve of the upper edge, front seat rails with a straight rear edge, front legs that are doweled to the seat frame and straight, unchamfered raking rear legs. Such similar outward appearances between the groups, but notable differences particularly in the hidden areas, suggests that there were two, large competing shops operating around the same time.

From available evidence, other chairs displaying the same details as the chair offered here and the Brown chairs are illustrated as follows: Two in public collections, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc. no. 38.52.1) and the Bayou Bend Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (acc. no. B.69.31), in Morrison H. Heckscher, American Furniture: The Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles (New York, 1985), pp. 128-129, cat. 76 and David B. Warren et al., American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection (Princeton, 1998), p. 36, F62); Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement, The Magazine Antiques (January 1953), inside front cover; Charles F. Montgomery and Patricia E. Kane, American Art: Towards Independence (New Haven, 1976), pp. 145-146, no. 91; Ginsburg & Levy, advertisement, The Magazine Antiques (November 1978), p. 848; Christie's, New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram D. Coleman, 16 January 1998, lot 235 (illustrated here as figs. 1, 1a); Christie's, New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. James L. Britton, 16 January 1999, lot 595; Sotheby's, New York, 18-19 January 2001, lot 700; Sotheby's, New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland, 19 January 2002, lot 55; Sotheby's, New York, Property of Rear Admiral Edward P. Moore and Barbara Bingham Moore, 26 September 2008, lot 20.

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