Lot Content

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Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Sack


English or Boston, 1770-1790
The shaped and carved crest above a pierced and ornately carved splat with molded stiles over an overupholstered trapezoidal seat with serpentine front rail with carving, on cabriole legs with carved knees and ball-and-claw feet, the seatrail with pencil inscription, Sidney D. Shattuck
38½in. high
Nathaniel Tracy (1751-1796), Newburyport, Massachusetts
The Honorable Jonathan Jackson (1743-1810), son-in-law, c. 1789
"Lord" Timothy Dexter, by 1790
John Greenleaf
James Prince (1755-1830), by purchase from above in 1800
Sarah (Prince) Doane (1785-1867), daughter
Anna B. (Doane) Shattuck, daughter
Sidney Doane Shattuck (b. 1855), son

Lot Essay

Made en suite with four other known side chairs, a sofa and bedstead, this chair descended from James Prince (1755-1830) and was probably part of the original furnishings of Nathaniel Tracy's (1751-1796) Newburyport mansion, a 1771 grand brick structure that still stands today and serves as the town's library. A patriot during the Revolutionary War, Nathaniel Tracy enjoyed considerable mercantile success until 1786 when financial difficulties forced him to sell his State Street mansion. The house, and presumably the furnishings, were owned by Tracy's son-in-law, the Honorable Jonathan Jackson who hosted President George Washington during his tour in October 1789. After quickly passing through several other owners, the house was purchased in 1800 by James Prince and as an 1814 auction announcement suggests housed furnishings that appear to be the suite discussed here. Published in the Essex Register, the auction notice includes a "yellow damask bed and window curtains, sophas and chairs covered with same." The auction never occurred and in 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette stayed in the mansion and in the very same quarters as Washington occupied 35 years earlier.

While it is possible that the suite of furniture was brought into the house after Tracy's occupation, the owner of the bedstead in 1963 noted that it had "belonged originally to the Tracy family who lived in the old brick house which is now the Public Library in Newburyport." In addition, the chair now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which descended along different family lines, also has a tradition of belonging to Nathaniel Tracy. The bedstead and two side chairs are in private collections (for the bedstead, see Sack, Fine Points of Furniture, Early American (New York, 1950), p. 89); the sofa is in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg and illustrated in The Girl Scouts Loan Exhibition (New York, 1929), no. 617); The other two side chairs are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Kenmore Museum, Fredericksburg, Virginia (see Yehia, "Ornamental Carving on Boston Furniture of the Chippendale Style," Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century (Boston, 1974), pp. 199-200, 207, fig. 144 and "The Editor's Attic," Antiques (July 1952), p. 71. For the history of the Tracy mansion, see William M. Emery, Newell Ancestry: The Story of the Antecedents of William Stark Newell (Boston, 1944), pp. 158-159.

While the chair's design suggests an English origin, it is possible that it was made by an immigrant craftsman in Boston. In 1974, the chair from the same set now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston was noted to be of "English or Boston area" manufacture. Furthermore, the raking side talons on the feet are quintessentially "Boston" and the use of beech, while often ascribed to European works, is seen on Massachusetts-made chairs (see Richards and Evans, New England Furniture at Winterthur (Winterthur, 1997), pp. 94, 98, 148).

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