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Side chair, splat-back

Origin: America, Massachusetts, Boston area
OH: 36 3/4"; OW: 23 3/4"; OD: 22 1/2"
Mahogany and cherry
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1976-69,2
Appearance: serpentine crest rail with gently rounded ears; top and bottom of crest rail defined by long, thin C-scrolls; ears decorated with shallowly carved ruffled C-scrolls; symmetrical acanthus leaf carving with central pendant bellflower in center of crest rail; pierced and interlaced splat with C-scrolls, small amounts of acanthus carving, and an unevenly cut base; molded shoe; stiles molded on front, rounded on back above seat rail; trapezoidal seat with serpentine front, upholstered over the rails and originally trimmed with a row of brass nails along bottom edge of front and side seat rails; rear legs chamfered on all four corners below stretchers to floor and above stretchers to below seat rails; cabriole front legs with star punch work and shallow, asymmetrical acanthus carving across sharp knees and spreading onto pairs of flanking ogee-shaped knee brackets; ball and claw front feet with thick rear talons, slightly back-swept side talons, and prominently rounded knuckles; turned rear stretcher; block and vase turned H-plan stretchers.

Construction: All elements of mahogany except as noted; stiles tenoned into crest rail; splat tenoned into crest rail and rear seat rail; shoe notched on back to fit over front of splat at base, nailed to rear seat rail through upholstery; rear seat rail and cherry front and side seat rails tenoned into legs but not pinned; no evidence of glue blocks; knee brackets on front legs glued and nailed into legs and seat rails; rear and side stretchers tenoned into legs; medial stretcher tenoned into side stretchers.
Label:In overall design, this chair (one of a pair) is among the most sophisticated of those produced in Boston during the third quarter of the eighteenth century. While its legs, feet, and old-fashioned stretchers are of the standard Boston formula, its well-carved crest rail and gothic splat are taken directly from English prototypes of the period.

The Boston upholstery trade was exceptionally well developed in the eighteenth century, and chairs with the over-rail treatment seen here were turned out in quantity. The upholstery reproduced on this chair is based on the crisp lines and smooth surfaces favored by the eighteenth-century craftsman and patron alike, and its brass nailing follows the original pattern still evident in the seat frame.
Provenance:According to vendor, purchased by D. Roger Howlett of Child's Gallery and Carl Crossman, Inc. some years before CW acquisition "out of a house on Beacon Street owned by an old Boston family."