Building America: The Wolf Family Collection

Building America: The Wolf Family Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 838. The Apthorp Family Queen Anne Walnut Side Chair, carving attributed to John Welch (1711-1789), Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1735.

The Apthorp Family Queen Anne Walnut Side Chair, carving attributed to John Welch (1711-1789), Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1735

Auction Closed

April 21, 08:50 PM GMT


50,000 - 80,000 USD

Lot Details


The Apthorp Family Queen Anne Walnut Side Chair

circa 1735

the chair marked IIII with original maple slip seat marked IIII

a handwritten note on the interior seat rail inscribed This "Apthorp Chair" which to the Eldest]/ daughter of each generation, named/ Elizabeth - belonged to my Great-Great/ Great Grandmother - Madam Apthorp - of/ Boston & at my death is to be given to/ my [eldest daughter] Elizabeth, to be left/ [to her descendants in] the same manner/ [signed El]izabeth H. McCalla.

28 x 22 x 21¾ in. (71.1 x 55.9 x 55.3 cm.)

Charles (b. 1698) and Grizzell Eastwick (1708-1796) Apthorp, New York
Susan Apthorp Bulfinch (1734-1815), daughter
Elizabeth Bulfinch Coolidge (1777-1837), daughter
Elizabeth McCalla Miller (b. 1875)
Mary Elizabeth Symington
Ginsburg & Levy, Inc., New York
Benjamin and Cora Ginsburg, New York
Leigh Keno American Antiques, New York
Private Midwest Collection
Leigh Keno American Antiques, New York
London, England, American Art, 1750-1800, Victorian and Albert Museum, 1962, no. 121

Number IIII of its set are retaining its original maple slip seat correspondingly numbered IIII, this side chair stems from the set of eight side chairs that descended from Charles (1698-1758) and Grizzell (Eastwick) (1709-1796) Apthorp of Boston. The English-born Charles Apthorp was one of the wealthiest merchants in Boston during the second quarter of the eighteenth century. He served as the American agent for Thomlinson and Trecothick, a London-based merchant house that supplied money to the British Army in the colonies. Like many of Boston’s most prosperous merchants, he was a Loyalist and a member of the Church of England. His constant business and social correspondences with England allowed him to keep abreast of the latest London fashions.

Made of walnut, the chairs in the Apthorp set exhibit hallmarks of high style Boston chair making in the 1730s and 1740s. They have distinctive small-webbed claw-and-ball feet, shell-carved front cabriole legs with prominent rounded returns, squared rear feet, balloon-shaped seats, backs with bow-shaped splat shoes, veneered walnut and maple splats and pierced shell-carved crests. Many of the chairs retain their original Eastern New England-type triangular white pine glue blocks. Two chairs from the set were sold in These Rooms on January 31, 1993, sale 6392, lots 1279 and 1280. One is currently in a private collection and the other in the collection of the Chipstone Foundation.1 Four others were sold in These Rooms, Highly Important Americana from the Stanley Paul Sax Collection, January 16-17, 1998, sale 7087, lots 265, 266, 513 and 514. Another side chair from the set is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.2

This set of side chairs in the focus of the article “The Very Pink of the Mode: Boston Georgian Chairs, Their Export and Their Influence” published by Leigh Keno, Joan Barzilay Freund, and Alan Miller in American Furniture 1996, edited by Luke Beckerdite (Milwaukee, WI: The Chipstone Foundation, 1996), pp. 266-306. As noted by Keno, Freund and Miller, the shell-carved crest and knees, inverted baluster splat, angular S-shaped stiles, and rear squared feet are all characteristics found on London chairs of the 1720s and early 1730s and through imported models, were adopted by Boston chair makers by the mid 1730s.3

The carving on the Apthorp side chairs is attributed to the prolific Boston carver, John Welch (1711-1789), who was born in Boston in 1711 and may have apprenticed to the carver George Robinson (1680-1737) before beginning work as a journeyman by 1732.4 By 1733, he was in business at a shop on the Boston wharf executing ship and furniture carving in addition to architectural carving for the courthouse (the present Massachusetts State House) when it was rebuilt after a fire in December of 1747. He collaborated with John Singleton Copley during the 1770s and of the thirty-two extant Rococo style frames on Copley portraits, twenty-five can be documented or attributed to Welch. He continued to work after the Revolution and served as a Captain in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery and a pew holder at King’s Chapel. He owned a house on Green Lane, near Paul Reveres’ house, which was large enough to quarter fourteen British soldiers after the French and Indian War. He died in Boston on February 9, 1789 and was buried in the church cemetery, leaving an estate valued at 58 pounds 9 shillings.5 The claw feet are typical of those produced by Welch during the 1740s and early 1750s. Similar feet are found on a card table with carving attributed to Welch that descended in the Dalton family of Boston.6

1 Chipstone Foundation, acc. 1993.2.

2 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, acc. 1984.21.

3 Leigh Keno, Joan Barzilay Freund, and Alan Miller, “The Very Pink of the Mode: Boston Georgian Chairs, Their Export, and Their Influence,” American Furniture, 1996, p. 272.

4 Luke Beckerdite, “Carving Practices in Eighteenth-Century Boston,” in Old-Time New England: New England Furniture, 1987, p. 142.

5 Beckerdite, p. 159.

6 See Keno, Freund, and Miller, figs. 11-2, p. 276.