With expertly carved foliage and swags and distinctive eight-star punchwork, the sofa offered here is part of a group attributed to the master carver, Samuel McIntire (1757-1811) of Salem, Massachusetts. These sofas all feature the same molded contours of the crest with a C-scroll bordered arched tablet, scrolled arms with carved circular grips, serpentine-front seat frames and square tapering legs. Providing the basis of attribution for the entire group, at least four examples bear McIntire's hallmark motif of a carved basket of fruit on the tablet (see fig. 2). Closely related baskets adorn several examples of furniture and architectural elements made for the Derby family of Salem for which bills from McIntire survive (Swan, "Where Elias Hasket Derby Bought His Furniture," Antiques (November 1931), pp. 280-282). Though the sofa offered here and another now in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum feature carved swags instead of baskets, the close similarities between the carved rosettes and waterleaf carving on the arm supports to the basket-carved examples support the attribution to McIntire for the sofa offered here (for the Henry Ford example, see Bishop, Centuries and Styles of the American Chair (New York, 1972), fig. 371).
The circular grips are carved with distinctive rosettes comprising an outer ring of swirled leaves and an inner petalled flower; almost identical rosettes as well as waterleaf carving appear on those sofas with the basket-carved tablet, including an example now in the collection of Winterthur Museum, an example formerly in the collection of George A. Cluett and an example that sold in these Rooms, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eddy Nicholson, 27-28 January 1995, lot 1145 (see Montgomery, American Furniture: The Federal Period (New York, 1966), cat. 264, p. 300; Kimball, "Furniture Carvings by Samuel McIntire: II, Sofas," Antiques (December 1930), fig. 8). McIntire apparently borrowed ideas for these embellishments from pattern books such as George Hepplewhite's The Cabinet-Maker's and Upholsterer's Guide (London, 1794), plate 19 (see fig. 1).
Other sofas in this group include an example now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Kimball, fig. 9), an example in the collection of Williams College Museum of Art (Winterthur Library: Decorative Arts Photographic Collection, 69.483), an example in the collection of Historic Deerfield, Inc. (Lockwood, Colonial Furniture II (New York, 1926), p. 317, an example that sold in these Rooms, 13 October 1983, lot 294. Related examples are discussed in Christie's New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eddy Nicholson, 27-28 January 1995, p. 320.