Boldly proportioned and measuring nearly eight feet long, this handsome sofa bears the elaborate and rare detail of pointed peaks breaking the serpentine curve of the back on either side of the central hump. It otherwise follows the classic Rococo style design with its boldly arched crest rail, steeply pitched outward-scrolling arms, and Marlborough legs that became fashionable in Philadelphia about 1765.
It is one of very few Philadelphia sofas with a peaked camelback that are extant. One is offered as lot 29 in this sale. Another is in the collection of Winterthur Museum and illustrated in Joseph Downs, American Furniture, New York, 1952, no. 272. One with a serpentine front rail carved with a fretwork design owned by the Chew family at Cliveden is illustrated in William M. Hornor, Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture, Philadelphia, 1935, pl. 258. Another also with a serpentine front seat rail and a history in the Morris family of Philadelphia is pictured in American Furniture, 1620 to the present by Jonathan Fairbanks and Elizabeth Bates (New York, 1981, p. 159). An additional example with a serpentine front rail is illustrated as a masterpiece in The New Fine Points of Furniture by Albert Sack (New York, 1993, p. 249).
Other related Philadelphia camel-back sofas with cuffed Marlborough legs and broad proportions include one in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and illustrated in plate 202 of Hornor’s Blue Book as the property of Harry G. Haskell of Wilmington, Delaware; one at Winterthur Museum illustrated in Downs, pl. 27; and one at Bayou Bend with a history in the Harrison Wood family (see David Warren, American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection, Houston, 1998, F101, p. 60).
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