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A PAIR OF LATE VICTORIAN POLYCHROME-PAINTED SATINWOOD ARMCHAIRS
A PAIR OF LATE VICTORIAN POLYCHROME-PAINTED SATINWOOD ARMCHAIRS

CIRCA 1900

Details
A PAIR OF LATE VICTORIAN POLYCHROME-PAINTED SATINWOOD ARMCHAIRS
Circa 1900
Each pierced shield-form back above downswept arms and U-shaped padded seat upholstered in cream-ground cotton, on tapering square legs with spade feet, painted overall with floral garlands (2)
Provenance
Part of a commission supplied by Stanford White in 1898-1906 for James L. Breese for 'The Orchard', Southampton, New York.
Acquired with the house by Charles E. Merrill in 1926.
Thence by descent.

Lot Essay

In 1898, the wealthy financier and amateur photographer, James L. Breese (1854-1934) commissioned the legendary firm of McKim, Mead and White to convert a 19th century ship captain's house into a summer home fit for a gentleman in the newly fashionable community at Southampton on the south fork of Long Island. The late 19th century and first few decades of the 20th century saw a dramatic increase in the number of wealthy summer residents in Southampton, effecting a spate of construction of baronial 'piles' throughout the area as was also evident during this period along Rhode Island's Gold Coast and Saratoga Springs, New York. 'The Orchard' featured a prominent portico fashioned after George Washington's Mount Vernon. While McKim oversaw the exterior design of the house, Stanford White designed and furbished the interiors. Often acting in the role of advisor and interior designer, White frequently travelled to Europe to purchase furniture, pictures, sculptures and architectural elements for clients, as well as his own collection. He was also a prolific designer of furniture as well as jewelry, picture frames, magazine covers, gravestones and trophies. White's commissions included houses and interiors for many prominent members of society, including the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys, and social clubs such as the Metropolitan and the Century, while the firm itself produced more than 900 public and private commissions.

In 1926, Charles E. Merrill purchased the house and gardens along with a fair amount of the original furnishings. Hellen Ingram Merrill recalled: When Charlie took me past the Orchard in 1926 and asked me if I would like him to buy it, I replied 'Heavens no! It's much too big...'. It is characteristic of Charlie that, once he and the Orchard's owner, James. L. Breese, came to terms, he could not wait until business hours to close the deal. Papers were brought to a Broadway theatre, where he signed the contract between acts... (Hellen's Book, privately published, p.17).

Much of the painted satinwood furniture in this sale, including this lot, lots 37-39 and 121, as well as the pair of columns (lot 160) and probably the Adam revival wall lights (lot 6) were part of the original Stanford White commission. Further lots in the sale (lots 1, 17, 32, 59 and 134) also came from 'The Orchard' but were almost certainly purchased by Charles and Hellen Ingram Merrill on their buying trips in Europe in the 1920s and 30s. The McKim, Mead and White commission of 'The Orchard' is discussed in S.G.White's The Houses of McKim, Mead and White, New York, 1998, pages 238-249.
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