Lot 6022
  • 6022

Exceptional Queen Anne Carved and Figured Walnut Compass-Seat Open Armchair, Philadelphia, circa 1760

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Walnut
  • Height 42 3/4 in.
retains a dark rich historic surface, proper left upper scroll on splat replaced.


Joe Kindig, Jr. & Son, York, Pennsylvania;
Margaret Wilson Lewis du Pont, Wilmington, Delaware.


Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, Vol. II (New York, 1948), no. 2147.


Small patch near seat rail and arm support on left side, proper left upper right scroll replaced, proper left leg left side talon replaced. Small crack at top of proper left rear leg with some infill.
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

Meticulously designed and finely constructed of highly figured walnut, this armchair is among the most rare and magnificent surviving examples of Philadelphia seating furniture in the Queen Anne style. It represents a variation of the fiddleback chair pattern, with its solid splat with paired volutes, shell and volute carved crest rail, open arms supported by shaped uprights terminating in scrolled handholds, compass seat rail, shell-carved knees, front cabriole legs terminating in claw-and-ball feet with finely articulated talons, and stump rear legs that are oval in cross section and curve backward. It was formerly in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.1

A small group of Philadelphia Queen Anne compass seat armchairs are known and variations within the design of extant examples illustrate the options available for the form. Chairs of this type could be made with crests with paired or single volutes flanking the shell, baluster or fiddle back splats, rounded or flat stiles, knees with shell or leaf carving, and trifid, pad or claw and ball feet.  This chair does not fit into an existing set but is similar to a pair of walnut armchairs at Winterthur Museum with an additional pair of volutes on the crest rail and C scroll knee returns.2 A very closely related walnut armchair of the same design but with volute-carved knee returns and claw feet descended in the family of Joshua Humphreys, the shipbuilder of Southwark. It is currently in the collection of Independence National Historical Park.3

A Philadelphia side chair also offered in this sale is similar but differs in displaying trifid feet and a blocked seat rail. One of walnut with a plain seat rail and trifid feet is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.4  A side chair made of walnut with paneled pad feet sold in these rooms, Property of Rear Admiral Edward P. Moore and Barbara Bingham Moore, September 26, 2008, sale 8446, lot 60.  An armchair possibly from the same set as the Moore Collection chair is in a private collection and illustrated as a “masterpiece” in Albert Sack, The New Fine Points of Furniture, New York, 1993, p. 29. Other related walnut chairs with a baluster splat include an armchair with trifid feet at the Milwaukee Art Museum, a side chair with claw and ball feet at Yale University, and a set with trifid feet comprised of an armchair and six side chairs at the State Department, Chipstone and the Kaufman Collection.5

1 Accession no. 38.1928.45.
2 See Joseph Downs, American Furniture, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1952, no. 29.
3 See John C. Miley, ed., Treasures of Independence: Independence National Historic Park and Its Collections (New York, 1980), no. XL.
4 See Morrison Heckscher, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 38, p. 82-4.
5 See Brock Jobe, et al, American Furniture with Related Decorative Arts, 1660-1830, The Milwaukee Art Museum and the Layton Art Collection, New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1991, no. 43, pp. 115-6, Patricia Kane, 300 Years of American Seating Furniture, Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976, no. 62, pp. 82-4, and Clement Conger and Alexandra Rollins, Treasures of State, New York: Harry Abrams, 1991, no. 7, pp. 86-7.