Rarely do chairs appear in the marketplace with as much integrity as this pair. Originating from the workshop of John Gaines III, these two chairs are very important documents to the various seating furniture made in the shop. The only securely documented seating by Gaines are four surviving chairs from a set he made for personal use. The chairs descended in the Brewster family of Portsmouth, New Hampshire until sold at Northeast Auctions in two pairs of chairs on November 8, 1998, lots 1097 and 1098. The currently offered chairs display striking similarities in the carving of the crest and turning profiles to the Brewster set. The only noticeable difference is the profile of the splat which on the currently offered chairs has a cyma curve above the baluster as opposed to the Brewster splat’s cavetto. Another pair of chairs survive that may be part of the same set as the currently offered lot (see American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, vol. 8, (Washington, DC: Highland House Publishers Inc., 1986), p.2236, no. P5775). Their family history notes that they descended in the Tufts family.
Structurally there is another difference. The generally accepted understanding is that Gaines chairs have brush feet constructed from the solid. One chair from this pair has solid feet while the other chair’s feet was built up with laminates and then carved. The loss to the chair’s toes demonstrates likely why Gaines adapted the practice of making his feet from the solid. Any moisture from the floor would negatively react with the hide glue used to secure the foot and those small pieces would go missing. Therefore these chairs broaden our understanding of the various splat styles and foot construction emanating from the Gaines shop. For a thorough analysis of John Gaines II and III seating furniture see Robert F. Trent, Erik Gronning and Alan Anderson, “The Gaines Attributions and Baroque Seating Furniture in Northeastern New England,” American Furniture 2010, ed. Luke Beckerdite, (Milwaukee, WI, Chipstone Foundation, 2010), pp. 140-193.