With its distinctive stacked baluster turnings, red gum primary wood and trestle-base, this oval table is a rare and regionally expressive survival of early eighteenth-century New York furniture. Approximately twenty four similar tables, with oval drop-leaf tops, turned supports, flat gates and trestle-bases, are known, and this example is distinguished as the only one with an eighteenth-century New York history.
As discussed by Peter Kenny and Frances Safford, the tables in this group display variations in turnings and construction, but are structurally consistent and reflect a strong regional preference for the form. The stacked baluster design seen on the turnings on this table was one of several patterns employed by these table's makers. The design was favored in New York and contrasts with the New England preference for opposing baluster turnings, which are bilaterally symmetrical. Elsewhere in the colonies, stacked baluster turnings are seen in South Carolina, which like New York, had a large influx of French Huguenot immigrants. The placement of the smaller element below, as noted by Peter Kenny, illustrates the Baroque aesthetic of "dramatic tension and movement" as the lower baluster "is consciously made squatter with a shorter neck to give it the appearance of being forced into compression by the pendulous baluster above." Of the twenty four similar tables, about half feature the double or stacked baluster design. Otherwise, the group displays a high degree of consistency with only slight variations due to different shop practices. All have a board running underneath the top, to which the turned supports are dovetailed, as seen on this table, or tenoned. The stretchers of the gates are through-tenoned to the uprights and either single or double pinned. The leaves on this table are connected to the top center board with tongue-and-groove joints; some of the other tables feature rule joints, which tend to suggest a later date of production. Like many of the other tables from this group, the top has warped as red gum is particularly susceptible to this condition. See Peter M. Kenny, "Flat Gates, Draw Bars, Twists, and Urns: New York's Distinctive, Early Baroque Oval Tables with Falling Leaves, "American Furniture 1994, ed. Luke Beckerdite (Milwaukee, WI, 1994), pp. 110, 116, 118-119, 124-126; Frances Gruber Safford, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: I. Early Colonial Period: The Seventeenth-Century and William and Mary Styles (New York, 2007), pp. 159-161, cat. 65; for another related table, see Christie's New York, The Collection of the Late Lillian Blankley Cogan, September 7, 1992, lot 136.
While the group's design and wood use point to New York, this table is the only one of the group with an eighteenth-century New York provenance. The underside is branded twice with the conjoined initials, "ATB," most likely those of Abraham Ten Broeck (1734-1810) of Albany (Kenny, p. 116). As noted by Robert Trent, such brands were used by merchants to identify their barrels of goods during shipment and Ten Broeck, a prosperous merchant, would certainly have had such a brand. The practice was particularly favored by those of Dutch descent in the Hudson River Valley (see Roderic H. Blackburn, "Branded and Stamped New York Furniture," The Magazine Antiques (May 1981), pp. 1130-1145). Aged sixteen in 1750, he probably was not the first owner and may have inherited the table from a previous generation, his parents Dirck Ten Broeck (1686-1751) and Margaret Cuyler (b.1692) or his wife's parents Patroon Stephen Van Rensselaer I (1707-1747) and Elizabeth Groesbeck (1707-1756). A Revolutionary patriot and great friend of George Washington, Ten Broeck was active in both the political and military efforts to win independence. A Colonel and then Brigadier General in the army, he also served on the New York Provisional Congress and was the Chairman of its Committee of Safety in 1777. In 1763, he married Elizabeth Van Rensselaer (1734-1813), and upon the death of her brother, Patroon Stephen Van Rennselaer II (1742-1769), Ten Broeck managed the Van Rensselaer estate until the coming of age of his nephew, Stephen Van Rensselaer III (1764-1839) in 1784. After the war, he was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Mayor of Albany, member of the State Senate and President of the Bank of Albany. In 1798, he constructed a grand brick house, Prospect, which is now the Ten Broeck Mansion, a house museum run by the Albany County Historical Association (Emma Ten Broeck Runk, The Ten Broeck Genealogy (New York, 1897), pp. 91-98).
When it was published in The Magazine Antiques in 1934, the table was noted to have been used by General Philip Schuyler (1733-1804), "the hero of Saratoga," as a field table during his service in the Revolutionary War. As the Ten Broeck and Schuyler families were closely allied through marriage, business and politics, it is possible that the table was owned by both Abraham Ten Broeck and Philip Schuyler. However, Ten Broeck also served at the Battles of Saratoga and family remembrances may have confused the two. Complicating its history is its supposed gift from Schuyler to his aide, John Wood, as noted in the 1934 Antiques article and in 1988 in Remembrance of Patria. In 1934, the table was owned by Mrs. Lauriston Walsh, who was born Grace Almy Schoonmaker in 1906. No ties can be found between Grace Schoonmaker's ancestors and a John Wood. However, while a clear line of descent has not been discerned, there were numerous marriages among the Ten Broeck, Schuyler, Ten Eyck, Cuyler and Schoonmaker families during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the table may have descended through distant family relations.
Christie's gratefully acknowledges the scholarship of Martha H. Willoughby.