Lot 11
  • 11

Thomas Molesworth

40,000 - 60,000 USD
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  • Thomas Molesworth
  • Four Early Panel-Back Armchairs From O.T.O. Ranch, Montana
  • fir, routed and stained oak, original green leather upholstery, yellow leather detailing, hammered brass tacks
  • 41 x 23 1/2  x 22 3/4  in. (104.1 x 59.7 x 57.8 cm) each
with tipi motif


Commissioned by Chan Libbey for O.T.O. Ranch, Gardiner, Montana, circa 1934-1935
Fighting Bear Antiques, Jackson Hole, Wyoming


O.T.O. Ranch: Dude Ranch Montana, sales brochure, circa 1940, n.p. (illustrated)


Each chair is in overall in very good condition. An early example, designed for the O.T.O Ranch in Montana, and documented in their late 1930s sales brochure. Each chair presents with a vibrant forest green leather. Additionally the back panel of each seat has a routed tipi motif as well as small, applied, yellow leather medallion. Originally intended as chairs for a games table, the arms of each are slightly shorter in proportion than a typical armchair, the angled finish of each arm being a thoughtful design detail, exhibiting the grain of each pole. The wood surfaces with scattered and minor scuffs, scratches, nicks, dents, minor areas of rubbing and fading to the stain, largely concentrated to the lower portions of the chairs. This is consistent with age and gentle use. There are natural knots, irregularities and separations in the wood grain, typical for fir, and this has been reinforced with wood infill in areas by Molesworth at the time of production. All four of the chairs with minor instances of loss to this inlay as well as some pronounced grooves in the wood grain, none of which are visually distracting. The rear upper edge of proper right pole of one chair with a very minor loss to the wood measuring approximately 1 ½ x 3/8 in, which is not visually distracting. The leather of each chair is original and in very good condition, presenting with a slightly deeper Kelly green than as illustrated in the catalogue; its surfaces with scattered signs of wear, rubbing, minor scuffs and faint instances of craquelure as is common for leather of this age. The fabric liner on the underside of three chairs with minor partial tearing. The brass tacks with some minor surface scratches and areas of rubbing, not visually distracting and consistent with age and gentle use. Documented in a 1930s brochure, these chairs demonstrate the hallmarks of Molesworth's early designs and present very well overall.
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

One of Molesworth’s earliest commissions was the famous “O.T.O.” Ranch in Gardiner, Montana, in 1934-1935.  Located near Yellowstone National Parks, it was one of the first ranches to market an all-encompassing dude ranch experience to vacationers, including log cabin retreats, fresh local food, horseback riding, and day trips to the National Parks.  Chan Libbey purchased the ranch in 1934 and commissioned Shoshone Furniture Company to furnish the interior.  With notable guests, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Marcellus Hartley Dodge (son-in-law of William Rockfeller), “O.T.O.” Ranch is where some of Molesworth’s characteristic pieces, with knotty burled fir and supple leathers, first gained traction among the country’s elite.   The hexagonal games table and associated chairs presented here come originate with this 1934 commission.  With their characteristic hand painted leather upholstery and routed tipi motif in the panel back chairs, Molesworth took the extra design step and added little medallions of yellow leather to each chair back.  The chairs are documented in an early ranch brochure (late 1930s) and retain their original upholstery.  The accompanying hexagonal games table is of exceptional rarity, with its inlaid leather top.  Executed in a rich and vibrant leather, the top presents with a geometric design, punctuated by arrows and Western motifs, while the base is exhibits an exceptionally large Inland fir burl.  Retaining all original leather elements, the set is an important and rare example of Thomas Molesworth’s early work.