The eighth "patroon" of Rensselaerwyck, and the largest landowner in New York, Stephen Van Rensselaer III is remembered as a federalist, philanthropist, soldier, and dedicated supporter of the economic development of his state. Descending from Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, whose patroonship was first granted by the Dutch administration in 1637, Stephen managed and grew his vast properties while particpating in political and military affairs for over four decades. Serving in both the New York Assembly and State Senate, he also was Lieutenant-Governor from 1795-1801. Appointed Major-General in the state militia in the 1780s, he was later decorated as the commander of the American troops on the western front in the war of 1812. Also President of the Erie and Champlain canal boards, and a staunch suporter of education, Van Rensselaer was a Regent of the Univeristy of the State of New York and founder of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He married twice, first to Margaret Schuyler with whom he had three children, and later to Cornelia Paterson with whom he had nine children.
These chairs were either made for Stephen Van Rensselaer III or for his son, Stephen IV. They appear to be those pictured in a photograph of the dining room of the Van Rensselaer Manor from the late nineteenth century (see lot 230, figure 1). For more on Stephen Van Rensselaer III and IV, see The Dictionary of American Biography, for more on the Manor house and provenance of these chairs, see note to lot 230.
A nearly identical set of chairs with an additional carved scroll above each foot that also descended from Stephen Van Rensselaer III and IV was sold in The Collection of the Late Berry B. Tracy, Sotheby's New York, February 1, 1985, lot 779.