Representing the apex in carving excellence, the carved decoration on this high chest is attributed to the acclaimed craftsman, John Pollard (1740-1787). He was likely trained in London and working in Philadelphia by December of 1765, when Benjamin Randolph (1737-1792) recorded in his receipt book a payment for Pollard’s rent. Randolph financed Pollard’s emigration and employed him by indenture. During the 1760s and early 1770s, he was the principal carver in Randolph’s shop, where he worked alongside the carver Hercules Courtenay for a time and supervised a number of apprentices and journeymen. By 1773, he established a business with Richard Butts on Chestnut Street, between Third and Fourth Streets, opposite Carpenter’s Hall.1 On February 22nd of that year, the Pennsylvania Gazette reported that Pollard and Butts could provide “all manner of carving” at the Sign of the Chinese Shield.”2
While working for Randolph, Pollard executed carving on a set of commode seat side chairs and a pier table commissioned by John Cadwalader (1742-1786) in circa 1769.3 He appears to have executed some of the architectural carving for the parlors of the Stamper-Blackwell house in Philadelphia and the Thomas Ringgold house in Chestertown, Maryland.4 He is also responsible for the carving on a suite of furniture made for David Deshler, a set of chairs made for Charles Thomson, including an armchair offered as lot 2162 in this sale, tea tables made for the Eyre and Biddle families and a set of seating furniture for the Wistar family.5
Pollard’s Rococo embellishments are sculptural and carefully rendered, achieving a depth with minimal use of surface veining. His highly refined vocabulary was inspired by Rococo designs illustrated in English pattern books, such as Thomas Johnson’s A New Book of Ornaments and Chippendale’s Director, both published in 1762 prior to his emigration to America. He incorporated recurring motifs into his designs, such as the distinctive acanthus-carved rosettes, flame finials, shell-carved drawers flanked by acanthus leaves, central shell of the skirt and acanthus carved knees found on this high chest. These motifs are repeated in a nearly identical manner on other high chests with carving attributed to him, including on two commissioned by Levi Hollingsworth (1739-1824). One of these is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the other was formerly in the collection of the Chipstone Foundation.6 The same shell-carved drawers, shell skirt pendants and carved knees are exhibited on the dressing tables made en suite with the aforementioned high chests.7 Pollard also carved a tea table commissioned by Levi Hollingsworth that is offered as lot 2145 in this sale.
The high relief C-scroll applied tympanum, shell-carved drawers and serpentine skirt relate this high chest to one with the same patterns in the Karolik Collection at the Museum of Fine, Arts, Boston with a history in the Potts family.8
For additional carving attributed to Pollard, see a side chair offered as lot 2152 in this sale from his collaboration with Richard Butts. Another side chair with carving attributed to Pollard with a history in the Longstreet family of Philadelphia was formerly in the collection of Mrs. J. Insley Blair.9
1 See Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, Philadelphia, 1976, p. 114.
2 See Andrew Brunk, “Benjamin Randolph Revisited,” American Furniture 2007, p. 6.
3 See Leroy Graves and Luke Beckerdite, “New Insights on John Cadwalader’s Commode-Seat Side Chairs,” American Furniture 2000, fig. 3 and 5, pp. 154-5 and fig. 17, p. 159.
4 See ibid, fig.s 10, 12 and 13, pp. 157-8.
5 For a side chair from the Deshler suite, see Israel Sack Inc., American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, Volume VI, p. 48, P3920. For another chair from the Thompson set, see Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, American Furniture at Chipstone, Madison, 1984, cat. 63, pp. 144-5. For the tea tables, see Christie’s, The Britton Collection, January 16, 1999, sale 9068, lot 592 and Christie’s, January 18-19, 2001, lot 119. For the Wistar chairs, see Christie’s, Property from the Collection of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, January 21, 2006, sale 1618, lot 535.
6 Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1964-142-1, Gift of Mrs. W. Logan MacCoy. The high chest is illustrated in William Hornor, Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture, 1977, p. 136. The Chipstone high chest was sold Christie’s, The Important Hollingsworth Family High Chest, Dressing Table, and Chair, January 16, 1998, sale 8882, lot 501.
7 The dressing table made en suite with the Philadelphia Museum of Art high chest is in a private collection and illustrated in Hornor, pl. 136. The dressing table formerly in the collection of Chipstone was sold at the aforementioned Christie’s sale.
8 See Edwin Hipkiss, M. and M. Karolik Collection of Eighteenth-Century American Arts, Boston, 1950, no. 33, p. 58.
9 See Christie’s, Property from the Collection of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, January 21, 2006, sale 1618, lot 536.
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