The carved embellishments on this armchair correspond in motif and execution to Pollard’s other accepted work. The cabochons on the ears with perpendicular gouge cuts and flanking acanthus leaves follow the carving displayed on the front seat rails of the saddle seat chairs and at the junctures of the C-scrolls on the marble top pier table. The acanthus leaf clusters on the upper splats of the Thomson armchair and saddle-seat chairs also appear on the center rail of the marble top table. The distinctive pendant bellflowers associated with Pollard’s hand are executed here on the crest rail and also on the knees of the saddle-seat chairs. These same motifs are repeated on the set of side chairs made for David Deshler.
This armchair was originally owned by Charles Thomson (1729-1824), an esteemed American patriot and prominent Philadelphia merchant. In 1739, he emigrated from Ireland to New Castle Delaware and later moved to Philadelphia, where he had a prosperous mercantile and rum distilling business. He was an early advocate for Independence and a member of the Sons of Liberty. In 1765, he helped lead the local resistance to the Stamp Act. In 1774, he was chosen by the First Continental Congress as its Secretary and was appointed again by the Second Congress in 1775. John Adams described Thomson as “the Sam Adams of Philadelphia, the life of the cause of liberty, they say."4 After serving nearly fifteen years, Thomson retired from the Continental Congress in 1789. George Washington wrote to him in a letter dated July 24, 1789 thanking him and saying “Accept then, this serious Declaration, that your Services have been important, as your patriotism was distinguished; and enjoy that best of all rewards, the consciousness of having done your duty well.”5 Thomson retired to Harrison House in Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where he focused on scientific agriculture, beekeeping and classical studies, while also serving as an ardent abolitionist. He continued to live there until his death in 1824.
This armchair remained in Charles Thomson’s family until 1993, when a descendant sold it at auction to the current owner. It was likely made as part of a set of twelve chairs. The mate is in the collection of Harriton House.6 A side chair from the set is in the collection of the Chipstone Foundation.7 One sold at Christie’s, Important American Furniture, Folk Art & Decorative Arts, September 28, 2011, sale 2468, lot 13. Another sold at Christie’s, New York, January 24, 1987, lot 285. Two others are in the collection of Tudor Place in Washington, D.C. Three other sets of chairs with a closely related design and carving by Pollard are known. An armchair from one set with additional carving on the stiles is in the collection of Winterthur Museum and illustrated by Hornor as once owned by Isaac Cooper.8 Another set was made for John Dickinson and a third set is represented by two side chairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.9
1 Thomas Chippendale, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, London, 1762, pl. XVI.
2 See Leroy Graves and Luke Beckerdite, “New Insights on John Cadwalader’s Commode-Seat Side Chairs,” American Furniture 2000, Luke Beckerdite, ed., Milwaukee: The Chipstone Foundation, 2000, figs. 3 and 5, pp. 154-5 and fig. 17, p. 159.
3 Israel Sack Inc., American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, Volume VI, P3920, p. 48.
4 C. F. Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. II, 1850, p. 358.
5 John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Writings of Washington (Washington, D.C., 1939), vol. 20, 1788 to January 1790.
6 See William Macpherson Hornor, Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture (Washington, D.C., 1935, reprint 1977) pl. 225.
7 See Oswaldo Rodriquez Roque, American Furniture at Chipstone (Wisconsin, 1984), pp. 144-5, color plate XXXII.
8 Hornor, p. 341.
9 See Hornor, pl. 119 and Beatrice Garvan, Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art (Philadelphia, 1776), p. 88, no. 67.
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