1434
1434

IMPORTANT PHILADELPHIA FURNITURE FROM DESCENDANTS OF THE WHEELER FAMILY

THE IMPORTANT SCOTT FAMILY CHIPPENDALE CARVED AND FIGURED MAHOGANY DRESSING TABLE, CABINETWORK POSSIBLY BY THOMAS AFFLECK (1740-1795); CARVING ATTRIBUTED TO JAMES REYNOLDS (C. 1736-1794), PHILADELPHIA, CIRCA 1770
Estimate
500,000800,000
JUMP TO LOT
1434

IMPORTANT PHILADELPHIA FURNITURE FROM DESCENDANTS OF THE WHEELER FAMILY

THE IMPORTANT SCOTT FAMILY CHIPPENDALE CARVED AND FIGURED MAHOGANY DRESSING TABLE, CABINETWORK POSSIBLY BY THOMAS AFFLECK (1740-1795); CARVING ATTRIBUTED TO JAMES REYNOLDS (C. 1736-1794), PHILADELPHIA, CIRCA 1770
Estimate
500,000800,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Americana

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New York

THE IMPORTANT SCOTT FAMILY CHIPPENDALE CARVED AND FIGURED MAHOGANY DRESSING TABLE, CABINETWORK POSSIBLY BY THOMAS AFFLECK (1740-1795); CARVING ATTRIBUTED TO JAMES REYNOLDS (C. 1736-1794), PHILADELPHIA, CIRCA 1770
appears to retain its original surface and its original cast brass hardware. Lacking front molding beneath top.
Height 30 3/4 in. by Width 37 1/4 in. by Depth 21 3/4 in.
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Provenance

Col. Thomas Alexander Scott (1823-1881), Franklin County, Pennsylvania, married Anna Dike Riddle (1839–1901);
Edgar Thomson Scott (1871–1918), Philadelphia;
Susan Scott Wheeler (1908-1975), Philadelphia;
Sons of Susan Scott Wheeler, the current owners, Philadelphia.

Catalogue Note

Representing a distinctly American 18th-century case form, this dressing table stands as a magnificent example of the fully developed Rococo aesthetic associated with Philadelphia's colonial craftsmen. With its accomplished casework attributed to Thomas Affleck (1740-1795) and exceptional carving attributed to James Reynolds (c. 1736-1794), it ranks among the best examples of its form made in Philadelphia before the American Revolution. It has survived in remarkable condition and retains its original surface and cast brass hardware.
The combination of masterful naturalistic and delicate relief and intaglio carving relates this dressing table to a small group of case pieces with carving attributed to James Reynolds, the highly talented carver who arrived in Philadelphia on August 21, 1766.  He advertised his architectural ship and furniture carving from “his house in Dock Street opposite Lodge Alley.” For the carving on this dressing table, Reynolds took extraordinary care in executing the shell drawer by using an extremely fine veining tool to delineate the flutes with a V-shaped dart. He joined the flutes in the center with a ruffled border and a trilobed device above a bellflower with broad petals. The knees display carving comprised of bilaterally symmetrical leaves separated by a V-shaped dart beneath a flower head. The same gradually attenuated flower heads as those found on the shell drawer of this dressing table are displayed on a chimney back molded from a carving by James Reynolds and made by Aetna Furnace in Burlington County, New Jersey.1

James Reynolds was regularly contracted for his work by Thomas Affleck, the Philadelphia cabinetmaker who likely made this dressing table. A dressing table and two high chests are known with similar construction and carving, All exhibit the unusual and distinctive detail of fluted quarter columns that start at the same height as the lower drawer bottoms, rather than close to the knees. The related dressing table in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art once belonged to James Read of Delaware.2 It displays a nearly identical shell carved drawer and a similarly shaped top. A high chest donated by Henry Francis du Pont to the American Museum in Bath, England also exhibits the same shell-carved drawer, but offers a more elaborate skirt profile and lacks the V-shaped dart with a flower head.3 Another related high chest with a very similar shell carved drawer and skirt profile has a history of descent in the Eckard family from the Signer George Read (1733-1798). It sold at Sotheby Parke Bernet and is currently in the collection of the Sewall C. Biggs Museum of American Art.4 

This dressing table was owned in the 19th century by Colonel Thomas Alexander Scott (1823-1881), Assistant Secretary of War to President Abraham Lincoln, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and founder of the Texas and Pacific Railroad. He was born on December 28, 1823, in Fort Loudon, Pennsylvania, the 7th child of Thomas Scott and his wife, Rebecca (Douglas). His father ran a stagecoach line and Thom’s Scott’s Tavern on the Franklin County turnpike between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Though his formal education was limited, Scott was well read and educated himself through books.

In 1840, he began working as a clerk in the State of Pennsylvania's office in Columbia, Pennsylvania. In 1850, he began his long career at the Pennsylvania Railroad as a station agent in Duncansville. After receiving numerous promotions, Scott became general superintendent of the railroad in the 1850s. In 1859, he became first vice president in charge of all operations and was a close advisor to J. Edgar Thomson, the company’s president.  As he ascended the corporate ladder, Scott discovered and personally mentored a young Andrew Carnegie, who also rose quickly through the ranks of the railroad.

During the Civil War, Scott served as Assistant Secretary of War in charge of supervising all government railways and transportation lines.

Scott returned to the Pennsylvania Railroad as president of the western division. In 1874, he became president after the death of J. Edgar Thomson and was at the helm of the world’s largest railroad under one management. He went on to found the Texas and Pacific Railroad before retiring in 1880. He died on May 21, 1881, at Woodburne, his home near Darby, Pennsylvania. In 1992, he was inducted into the Railroad Hall of Fame.

1 Luke Beckerdite, “Pattern Carving in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia,” American Furniture, edited by Luke Beckerdite (Hanover: Chipstone Foundation, 2014): fig. 42, p. 107.
2 Morrison Heckscher, American Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Random House, 1985): pp. 252-3, no. 64.
3 Joseph Downs, American Furniture: Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum (New York: MacMillan Company, 1952): no. 196; Michael Podmaniczky, “Downs, no. 196: A Philadelphia Rococo High Chest,” American Museum in Britain, col. 41, pp. 15-19.
4 Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Auction of American, November 8, 1975, sale 3804, lot 1258; Philip D. Zimmerman, The Sewell C. Biggs Collection of American Art, Volume I Decorative Arts (Dover, DE: Biggs Museum of American Art, 2002), pp. 100-1, no. 78.

 

 


Important Americana

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New York