This table features exceptional carving attributed to Richard Butts, a highly skilled and influential immigrant carver likely from London who was working in Philadelphia from the mid-1760s through the 1770s. His hand is responsible for some of the finest Philadelphia furniture of the Rococo period. He was working in partnership with John Pollard (1740-1787) on Chestnut Street by 1773. The two carvers advertised their business in the Pennsylvania Packet on February 22nd of that year that they executed “all manner of Carving in the House, Cabinet, Coach and Ship way, in the newest and most elegant taste.”2 John Pollard was the principal carver in the shop of Benjamin Randolph (1737-1792), where he worked with the carver Hercules Courtenay. Richard Butts also appears to have worked for the Randolph shop since his name is mentioned in Randolph’s account book.3 Butts lived for a time in the same boarding house as Hercules Courtenay, and they were known to have collaborated on commissions.
Alan Miller, the Americana scholar and expert on this carver’s oeuvre, has identified the work of Richard Butts on the suite of furniture made for David Deshler (1711-1792) in 1775, which he believes was primarily carved by John Pollard. Miller notes that Butts is responsible for many other surviving pieces of Philadelphia hairy paw furniture including the suite of chairs and card tables with straight gadrooned rails made by Benjamin Randolph as part of the Cadwalader suite;4 a tea table that sold in these rooms, Property from a Private Collection, January 18, 2003, sale 7866, lot 907; and a suite of chairs of which two now survive with replaced feet.5
His extensive oeuvre also includes the pier table offered as lot 2161 in this sale as well as a side chair offered in this sale as lot 2152 with carving attributed to the shop of John Pollard and Richard Butts.
1 See William MacPherson Hornor in Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture (Washington, D.C., 1977), pl. 99, Treasures of Independence: Independence National Historical Park and Its Collections, ed. John C. Milley, (New York: Mayflower Books, 1980), p. 149, pl. 132.
2 See Alfred Prime, The Arts & Crafts in Philadelphia, Maryland, and South Carolina, 1721-1785, 1929, p. 224.
3 Sotheby’s wishes to thank Alan Miller for providing this information on Richard Butts. Butts is mentioned in the missing pages of the account book but internal references in the surviving portion document this.
4 See Mark Anderson, Gregory Landrey, and Phil Zimmerman, Cadwalader Study, Winterthur, 1995.
5 See Morrison Heckscher, American Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, no. 58 and Parke-Bernet Inc., The Notable American Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Norvin Green, November 12, 1950, sale 1202, lot 659.
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