PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF A VIRGINIA FAMILY
New York Sun, February 10, 1934;
Joseph Down, Loan Exhibition of New York State Furniture, (Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 1934), no. 95;
Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement, The Magazine Antiques, March 1951, p. 169;
F. Lewis Hinckley, A Directory of Antique Furniture, (Bonanza Books: New York, 1953), p. 308, fig. 980;
Ethel Hall Bjerkoe, The Cabinetmakers of America, (Bonanza Books: New York, 1957), p. 31 (mentioned);
Morrison H. Heckscher, "The New York serpentine card table," The Magazine Antiques, May 1973, p. 983 (listed).
With its deeply shaped top, thick gadrooning and quintessentially New York squared ball and claw feet, this card table exemplifies the robust version of the form, known as the "Van Rensselaer" type as categorized by Morrison Heckscher in "The New York Serpentine Card Table", Magazine Antiques, May 1973, 974-983. In addition to distinct construction methods, other defining features of the Van Rensselaer, or Type I, tables include carving on the exposed knees of the rear legs and the vertical alignment of the leg and rear talon. Named after an example that is said to have descended from Stephen Van Rensselaer, the Type I tables display four distinct patterns in the knee carving, which suggest the work of several carvers. This card table, with its knee embellished with acanthus leaves bunched together by a horizontal C-scroll, is one of about 6 known with this type of carving. Designated as Group C tables by Heckscher, these games tables differ from the other Van Rensselaer tables, as well as all the Beekman tables, which feature variations upon a design centered by an asymmetrical C-scroll.
In his master's thesis, Frank Levy expands upon Heckscher's study and further subdivides the Type I tables into four cabinetmaking traditions. Sharing idiosyncratic joining techniques, all the tables bearing the bunched acanthus-leaf knee carving, as well as two C-scroll decorated tables at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, were made in the same shop. As several of these tables, including the MMA's Stephen Van Rensselaer table, descended in the Van Rensselaer family, Levy calls this group the "Van Rensselaer" group, although it is a sub-group of Heckscher's Type I tables of the same name (Frank M. Levy, "The Most Opulent Form: A Structural Analysis of New York Five-Legged Card Tables", Master's Thesis, University of Delaware, 1991, pp. 44-58).
Seen on this table, identifying construction features of this group include: the rough shaping on the interior of the rails, the removal of the excess wood on the interior at the junctures of the front and side rails, the side and rear rails meeting at a right angle and originally reinforced with a glue block, the joining of the interior and exterior rear rails with three or four screws and the presence of a hidden drawer. As Levy argues, the Van Rensselaer shop is closely related to but distinct from the shop run by Marinus Willett and Jonathan Pearsee (see lot 247 in this sale). In addition to differences in decorative options, the two shops differ in the execution of details such as the removal of excess wood from the interior corners of the front and side rails. The Willett-Pearsee tables have sharply angular cut-outs whereas the Van Rensselaer tables' cut-outs are slightly rounded. The use of such similar methods indicates close communication between the makers of the two groups-possibly through the employment of the same craftsmen or the close proximity of their shops. For a full discussion of the shops' practices, see Levy 1991, pp. 16-24, 44-58; for the Willett-Pearsee group, see also Frank M. Levy, "A maker of New York card tables identified", Magazine Antiques, May 1993, pp. 756-763.
The known games tables that display the bunched acanthus-leaf carving on the knees consist of at least four and possibly as many as six examples. Heckscher's listing includes one at Winterthur and three with unknown locations (including this games table). In addition to the Winterthur example, Levy lists two-one at the New Jersey Historical Society and one in a private collection-which may or may not duplicate Heckscher's "location unknown" references. Another table at Chipstone has been found to be fraudelent. The near mate to this table was sold at Christie's, New York, American Furniture, Silver, Prints, Scrimshaw and Folk Art, January 17, 2003, sale 1189, lot 303 for $867,500.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale