Material: Mahogany, birch, and northeaster white pine secondary woods
Condition: Fine Condition, recent upholstery, pictures of frame available
Additional Information: Cornelius Briggs cabinet maker, worked at 578 Washington
Street, Boston; lived at 2 Temple Place. This sofa is certainly exuberant, even lively.
The maker successfully combined a vocabulary of decorative elements. This
composition is closely related to a Sofa attributed to Isaac Vose and Son of Boston, see
figure 1, Rather Elegant Than Showy / The Classical Furniture of Isaac Vose by Robert
Mussey Jr. & Clark Pearce. Our sofa displays striking additional ornamentation such as
the robustly gadrooned front rail and the similarly gadrooned and scrolled back rail
featuring a cornucopia of fruits, exceptional carved legs, and feet.
The easy chair frame is in very good structural condition with only trivial minor repairs. In May of 1990 Alan Miller harvested 11 small wood samples for microscopic examination by Harry Alden, wood anatomist, who at the time was employed by the Winterthur Museum. (Now in private practice, the go-to lab) The three-page report supports American manufacture [report is available to interested parties]. From a design point of view, if construction details are not considered, considering known American easy chairs…this example most resembles chairs from New York or the area from Virginia to South Carolina. To make a regional attribution with any hope of accuracy, the chairs design, construction and wood species details must be considered and reconciled. Two of the hardwoods in this chair, black walnut and live oak, are of unquestionably American origin; collective range is from Northern Virginia south. (Please call or email Dave to discuss other wood species used in this chair and/or to receive a three-page report. The chairs quirky construction is likely the product of a rural or small village shop. It is possible that this chair is from a previously unknown shop in New York and the live oak came north on coastal shipping…if this were the case, the spruce and/or red pine could be either local or imported (Unlikely that a rural shop had access to imported woods). While this theory is certainly possible, a fair amount of documented New York furniture is known and none of it resembles this chair in terms of construction mentality. Maryland or Charlestown were possibilities yet have been rejected for similar reasons. As for regional attribution, coastal Virginia or North Carolina, especially Virginia is favored and logical. Even with this regional attribution we must patiently wait for a similar chair with known history to present itself, however, the attribution is reasonable and plausible. In any case, this is a charming and pure, rare American chair displaying great individual character.
The chair is clearly an 18th century American antique made in what can be broadly described as the Anglo-American woodworking tradition with construction details and wood use choices common to no other style center. It is a product of a professional chairmaker or makers, however the workmanship habits do not correspond to those of any known urban center and display individualistic mentality which is internally consistent and, in a way, rational - although very quirky and idiosyncratic compared to the product of someone with standard apprenticeship training. The chairs frame, in several aspects, is the easy chair reinvented; its form realized and approximated in novel ways. The aforementioned suggests a rural, or at least, enclaved, origin for this chair; its maker could have arrived at his own solutions to the problems of chair frame construction without pressure to conform to more standard local practices.
If there were no standard local practices, then this pressure would not exist suggesting that the chairmaker with professional skills but without firsthand easy chair frame making would logically have invented his own methods to arrive at his idea of the current chairs joinery and form. Two other general explanations seem possible; the first is that there existed a shop or regional tradition for technically making chairs like this. However, if this were so, more chairs made like this should exist and may one day be published. The second is an extrapolation of the first idea…if a chairmaker were trained to make chairs using this technique, he could have traveled to a new area and set up shop making products according to his habit and training.
See, Joseph Downs, American Furniture – Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods; plate 83 for an easy chair of similar design, circa 1745 – 1755, probably Virginia.
See, Southern Furniture 1680 – 1830, The Colonial Williamsburg Collection by Ronald Hurst and Jonathan Prown, pp. 71 and 72, number 9…a roundabout chair, Tidewater, Virginia, circa 1740 – 1750, made of walnut; related cabriole leg and turned pad feet. (Rear feet of our chair are shoed as often found in Virginia)
The Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum Decorative Arts Photographic Collection. 66.935 [closely related front and back legs/feet] Photograph of side chair; Albemarle County, Virginia, 18th Century
• Photographs of frame pre-upholstery are available. • Authentication by Alan Miller • Microscopic Wood Identification by Harry Alden, Winterthur Museum
Purchased by James Kilvington  at Wilson’s Auction (Lincoln, Delaware) from the Dashiell family sale, they settled in Gloucester County, Virginia in the mid-17th century; members of this family later moved to Dorchester and Wicomico Counties, Maryland. To Ronald Pook in 1990, to our consignor, a private Virginia collector.
Height to top rail: 44.25”, height to armrest at cone: 25.5”, seat height: 16” without cushion, seat depth: 17.5”, width of top rail: 25.5”, width measured at front of wings: 29”, armrest with measured at outside of cones: 36.5”.
For further information on this item, or for information on the AAAWT Brokerage Program, please contact David Hillier email@example.com or 978 597-8084.
The circular top features concentric rings turned into the side; beautiful long legs pierce the seat then taper-and-swell to nodules...tapering again to small feet.
(Fine condition; height: 13.5"; seat diameter: 10.5")
A wonderful folky example, the upholstered white pine top raised on turned tapering walnut legs resting on circular feet. For a great read see American Windsor Furniture Specialized Forms by Nancy Goyne Evans, Chapter 3; Production of Stools, Stands and Miscellaneous Forms.
(Scattered non-distracting thread loss; height: 6.5"; diameter: 7")
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