The robust high relief carving is attributed to Martin Jugiez, one of Philadelphia’s most talented immigrant carvers during the late eighteenth century. He was in partnership with Nicholas Bernard from the early 1760s and was the primary carver in their business with a fully developed working style. By 1783, Jugiez had established a separate business. These two carvers and their work is the focus of the article by Luke Beckerdite and Alan Miller, “A Table’s Tale: Crafts, Art, and Opportunity in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia, published in American Furniture, (Hanover and London: The Chipstone Foundation, 2004), pp. 2-45. A side chair at Chipstone from the same set as this pair is illustrated and discussed by Beckerdite and Miller in their article.1
Jugiez’s carving for this set of chairs is exceptional with a three-dimensional quality rarely found on Philadelphia seating furniture. In their discussion of the Chipstone side chair, Beckerdite and Miller describe the carving as more akin to architectural carving in its extreme depth. It was executed in a more sculptural fashion than the Chippendale design, with cabriole legs displaying a greater mass and more powerful sweep, with their curves accentuated by deeply carved scrolls and leaves.2 The cabochons and leaves circling the scrolls of the feet are pierced, undercut and carved completely in the round. The shell ears of the crest and small acanthus clusters flanking the lower piercing of the splat are carved deeply nearly exposing the back of the stock.3 Beckerdite and Miller note that this carving attests to the tremendous control Jugiez maintained over his tools and material while working quickly.
Other chairs made as part of this same set with carving by Jugiez include the one at Chipstone mentioned above, a pair at Winterthur Museum,4 a pair sold in these rooms, Fine Americana, January 29, 1977, sale 3947, lot 1092, and a side chair from the Buckeley Collection illustrated by Luke Vincent Lockwood in Colonial Furniture in America (New York, 1926, 3rd ed.), p. 91, fig. 555. Another pair was sold at Christies, The Collection of May and Howard Joynt, Alexandria , Virginia, January 20, 1990, sale 7012, lot 500. That pair was included in the exhibitions, The Philadelphia Chair, held at the Historical Society of York County in 1978 and In Praise of America, held at the National Gallery of Art in 1980.
A related set of chairs with the a similar overall pattern but with claw-and-ball front feet and less exuberant carving is represented by a side chair at Chipstone,5 one at Winterthur,6 and one sold at Christie’s, Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Nusrala, January 21, 2006, lot 685.
1 See Luke Beckerdite and Alan Miller, “A Table’s Tale: Crafts, Art, and Opportunity in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia, published in American Furniture, (Hanover and London: The Chipstone Foundation, 2004), fig. 43, p. 26.
2 Ibid, p. 26.
3 Ibid, p. 27.
4 See Joseph Downs, American Furniture (New York, 1952), pl. 135.
5 See Beckerdite and Miller, fig. 48, p. 28.
6 Ibid, pl. 136.
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