The sweeping curves, sharp silhouette and finely carved legs of this easy chair epitomize the best examples of the Philadelphia Chippendale Period. Designed for comfort, the complex form showcased the work of chair maker and upholsterer, and the legs were embellished by a specialized carver. The expanse of costly imported upholstery demanded by the form dictated that only a privileged few could afford such chairs, and few comparable chairs survive today with the intricate knee carving and the clear design of this example.
This chair is nearly identical in carving, stance and overall design to a chair in the collections of Winterthur Museum (figure 1). Both have deeply carved foliate knees, scrolled foliate-carved applied knee returns, and at the top center of the knee a distinctive, small cabochon. On both chairs the feet are sculpted with prominent tendons and clearly delineated knuckles; the ball of the foot is slightly egg-shaped rather than compassed. A second easy chair with closely related form and carving descended in the Willing-Fisher-Morris-Cadwalader families (sold Christie's, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eddy Nicholson, January 27, 1995, lot 1082). In keeping with the Willing example, the chair offered here was likely made about 1770, at the height of the artistic accomplishments of the city's best craftsmen.
The structural frame that creates the overall form of the back is of the chair in excellent condition. One of the rear stump-legs is replaced, but the front legs and the carving that embellishes them are intact. One small piece of blue show-cloth is trapped under a rose head nail in the frame, and may be a fragment of the original upholstery. The early history of this chair is now lost, but Caroline Foulke may have purchased the chair from the dealer Joe Kindig, from whom she purchased numerous other important Philadelphia chippendale objects.