The Important Hollingsworth-Humphreys Family Chippendale Carved and Figured Piecrust Tilt-Top Tea Table, probably from the workshop of Thomas Affleck, carving attributed to John Pollard, Philadelphia, circa 1779
Rebecca Hollingsworth Humphreys;
Thence by descent in the family;
David Stockwell, Wilmington, DE;
Robert Isbell, Tampa, Florida;
Christie’s, New York, Important American Furniture, Silver, Prints, Folk Art, and Decorative Arts, January 26, 1995, sale 8076, lot 164.
Ronald Bauman advertisement, The Magazine Antiques, 137:1 (January 1990), 2;
George Parker, “Early American Furniture in Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Academy Review, 43: 2 (Spring 1997), 15.
Thomas Affleck made this tea table for Levi Hollingworth (1739-1824), the prominent Philadelphia Quaker and rum merchant. Born in Head of Elk, Maryland in 1739 to a wealthy family of landowners, Hollingsworth moved to Philadelphia by 1760 and established one of the most successful mercantile firms there. He was a member of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club and Schuylkill Fishing Club, as well as a founder and Captain of the First Troop of Philadelphia. He married Hannah Paschall in 1768. Hollingsworth acquired this table from Affleck on August 5, 1779 in part trade for “7 Gallons Spirit £52.10.” Hollingsworth had purchased other furniture from Affleck and the two were business associates. In 1779 when this table was acquired, Philadelphia was in the midst of the Revolutionary War, with the British having recently evacuated the city the year before. Local currency was in short supply and inflated, which likely necessitated a trade for necessary goods such as rum.
Affleck made other furniture for Hollingsworth, including two pairs of high chests and en suite dressing tables documented in the Paschall-Hollingsworth papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. One high chest is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art1 and its matching dressing table is in a private collection. The other matching set was formerly in the collection of the Chipstone Foundation.2
This table is distinctive for the asymmetrical intertwined acanthus fronds on its knees. Similar knee carving is found on several other Philadelphia tea tables. One closely related example with the same compressed ball and column pillar form and construction was sold at William A. Smith, Inc. Auction in Plainfield, New Hampshire on November 26, 2016, lot 81. It likely stems from the same shop. Another at the Philadelphia Museum of Art features the same form with the additional embellishment of carving on the compressed ball.3 Two others include one at the Western Reserve Historical Society with a plain molded rim4 and one also with a piecrust top illustrated in The Magazine Antiques (March 1932), vol. XXI, no. 3, p. 114. This knee carving is also displayed on a tea table at the Metropolitan Museum with a piecrust top and vase and tapered pillar.5
1 See Beatrice Garvan, et al, Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art (Philadelphia, 1976), fig. 109a-b, pp. 140-144.
2 Sold at Christie’s, January 16, 1998, sale 8882, lot 501.
3 Philadelphia Museum of Art, accession 1991-34-1.
4 See Jarius B Barnes and Moselle Taylor Meals, American Furniture in the Western Reserve (Cleveland, 1972), no. 118.
5 See Morrison Heckscher, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1985), no. 124, p. 195.