PROPERTY FROM THE DUDLEY & CONSTANCE GODFREY FOUNDATION
These chairs descended through five generations of Thomas and Mary Carpenter’s family until they were sold at Sotheby’s in January of 1992. The set is comprised of one armchair and five side chairs with two side chairs numbered IIII and V and two others numbered II and VI with their corresponding slip seats. The armchair is illustrated by William M. Hornor in Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture (Washington, D.C., 1935) as plate 167 and the property of Mr. and Mrs. L. Caspar Wister. A dressing table with the same knee carving made as part of this suite of furniture is illustrated by Hornor also as the property of Mr. and Mrs. Wister. Other chairs from the set are known. Side chair number IIII with slip seat number V is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.1 Another side chair from the set is published as one of a pair by Joseph Kindig, The Philadelphia Chair: 1685-1785 (Harrisburg, 1978): no. 47.
The Gothic taste incorporated into the Rococo design of these chairs was popularized in Colonial America by the English pattern books of Matthew Darly and Thomas Chippendale.2 The splat is inspired by medieval architecture and rendered here as two tiers of Gothic pointed arches between outward splaying posts and beneath a broad crest rail. This unusual Gothic splat is found on other Philadelphia side chairs including a set with straight legs owned by James (1753-1795) and Elizabeth (Dawes) Morris (1746-1826) at Dawesfield, their country house outside of Philadelphia. An armchair from the set is illustrated by Hornor as the property of Lydia T. Morris.3 Two side chairs from Dawesfield were sold by a descendant at Sotheby’s, January 19, 2008, lot 185. Five side chairs from another closely related set were sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, Americana Collection of the Late Mrs. J. Amory Haskell, Part 2, May 17-20, 1944, lot 367. Two other chairs from a third related set with seats upholstered over the rails were owned by William White, the first Bishop of Pennsylvania.4
1 See Morrison Heckscher, American Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985): no. 60, p. 108.
2 See Matthew Darly, A New Book of Chinese, Gothic and Modern Chairs (London, 1751) and Thomas Chippendale, The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director (London, 1762).
3 See William M. Hornor, Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture (Washington, D.C.: 1935, p. 166.
4 Referenced by Heckscher, p. 108.
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