Lot 6011
  • 6011

Exceptional Queen Anne Carved and Figured Maple Armchair, attributed to Solomon Fussell or William Savery, Philadelphia, circa 1750

60,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Maple
  • Height 45 1/2 in.


Ralston House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Folk Art and Decorative Arts, October 18, 1996, sale 8494, lot 102.


Albert Sack, Fine Points of Furniture: Early American, (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1950), p. 20 identified as “Best” and as “one of the great masterpieces of Pennsylvania furniture";
Lindsey, Jack. Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania, 1680-1758, (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1999) fig. 150, pg. 98, no. 156, pg. 172.


Break and repair to back of crest rail. Break and repair to proper left front knee return. Break and repair to inner edge of proper left rear leg at joint with stretcher. Rush seat replaced.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Finely constructed of exceptionally figured maple, this armchair exhibits a graceful design typical of Queen Anne seating furniture made in Colonial Philadelphia. With its wavy crest, “spoon back,” turned arm supports, rush bottom seat, tripartite stretcher, and “crook’d feet,” it follows the same pattern as chairs made by Solomon Fussell (c. 1704-1762) and William Savery (1721-1787).1 Savery is recorded as having some eighty-three examples of this type of chair in stock at one time.2 Fussell’s surviving business ledgers 1738-1751 indicate that such “common” chairs were produced in large quantities with their basic components stockpiled before 1750. Chairs of this type are the focus of Benno Forman’s article, “Delaware Valley ‘Crookt Foot’ and Slat-Back Chairs: The Fussell-Savery Connection” in Winterthur Portfolio, 15 Spring 1980, pp. 41-64.

William Savery was apprenticed to Solomon Fussell, a Philadelphia craftsman who ran a chairmaking business, from circa 1735 to 1741. By 1750, he was established in a shop of his own on Second Street, between Chestnut and Market, where he continued to work for the remainder of his life as one of Philadelphia’s finest cabinetmakers. An active Quaker, his patrons included many other Quakers such as the Pembertons, Drinkers and Abel and Rebecca James. In 1754, he was appointed a ward assessor by Benjamin Franklin, who purchased furniture from Savery and Fussell in the 1740s.3  Savery’s estate inventory taken at his death in 1787 reveals that his important furniture was made of maple, including six maple chairs and one armchair valued at £4.0.0 … a maple chest of Drawers £5.0.0 … and a Do dressing table £  Most of Savery and Fussell’s accounts list maple as the primary raw material. It was clearly their wood of choice as it was plentiful in the Philadelphia area and, although difficult to work, allowed the craftsmen a high quality end product with a vibrant and strong surface. Although both craftsmen used similar construction methods in their work, their chair styles differed at times.  This chair follows the design preferred by Fussell, with a crest with a central arch, a vase shaped splat with scrolled ears, undercut arms and a tripartite stretcher. Savery’s chairs exhibit a serpentine crest rail, vase-shaped splats with shield-like profiles, serpentine arms and bulbous front stretchers.

A nearly identical maple armchair attributed to Solomon Fussell is in the collection of Winterthur Museum.5  A closely related side chair with Savery’s label sold in these rooms, Important Americana, January 17, 1999, sale 7253, lot 766. It displays minor differences in the splat profile, shaping of the skirt and turnings of the front stretcher but is otherwise very similar. A pair of maple rush-seat armchairs attributed to William Savery and representing the same tradition was sold at Christie’s, Important American Silver, Furniture, Folk Art, Prints, English Pottery and Chinese Export Art, January 24, 25, and 28, 2013, sale 2670, lot 173.

Six very similar maple side chairs originally owned by the Johnson family of Philadelphia and attributed to William Savery were sold in these rooms, Important Americana, January 20-22, 2006, sale 8158, lot 530, for $2,144,000.  A maple dressing table in a private collection with a history in the Johnson Family also bears an attribution to William Savery. It was sold in these rooms on January 19-21, 2007, sale 8278, lot 564 for the record price of $4,408,000. The Johnsons were successful tanners, property holders and Quakers, and the chairs and dressing table stood for approximately 130 years in their home in Germantown. The house was completed in 1768 and given by Dirck Jansen, an early settler of Germantown, to his son John Johnson on the occasion of his marriage to Rachel Livezey in 1769.6 The chairs and dressing table were most likely purchased from William Savery around the time of their marriage.

A tiger maple ladderback rush seat armchair attributed to the Fussell-Savery school with the same arms, arm supports, front skirt profile, cabriole legs and front stretcher sold at Pook & Pook, April 20, 2007, lot 755 for $491,400. Another maple ladderback armchair attributed to the shop of Solomon Fussel with the same features was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in memory of Mrs. J. Insley Blair.7

1 Benno Forman, “Delaware Valley ‘Crookt Foot’ and Slat-Back Chairs: The Fussell-Severy Connection,” Winterthur Portfolio, 15, Spring 1980, p. 55.
2 William Hornor, Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture, 1935, p. 295.
3 See Jack Lindsey, Worldly Goods, Philadelphia, 1999, no. 56, p. 145.
4 Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 50-51.
5 Joseph Downs, American Furniture, New York, 1952, no. 32.
6 Harold Eberlein and Courtlandt van Dyke Hubbard, Portrait of a Colonial City, Philadelphia, 1670-1838, p. 380.
7 Frances Safford, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 17, pp. 48-50.