These chairs, with block-and-spindle stretchers, vase-shaped splat, straight stiles, and yokelike crest, are classic examples of Late Baroque New England chair making. Fashioned of walnut, their exotic chinoiserie decoration, added in the early nineteenth century, represents a revival of japanning (see B.69.348). In America, unlike in England, the surfaces of furniture to be japanned were not gessoed. Instead, a pigmented varnish was applied directly to the wood, followed by a combination of brush and stencil work. Gold powders were then added to complete the decoration. Typically, this ornamental work was executed by an artist who undertook a range of projects, including the decoration of window shades, floor cloths, trade signs, and even carriages, sleighs, and other vehicles.

Technical notes: Black walnut; soft maple (slip seat), eastern white pine (corner blocks). The construction is typical of New England chairs from this period (see B.57.75). Some of the original large triangular corner blocks remain. The back is devoid of decoration. Analysis of the decoration does not suggest a conclusive date. The seat rail of B.69.247.1 is incised with one triangular notch, its slip seat with four notches. The seat rail of B.69.247.2 has three notches, its slip seat, five.

Related examples: Nine side chairs and a related armchair are known, eight of which are published: Fales 1976, pp. 42-43, nos. 71-72; Fairbanks et al. 1981, p. 599; Sack 1969-92, vol. 7, pp. 1794-95, no. P4991; Sotheby’s, New York, sale 5810, January 26-28,1989, lot 1503. The ninth side chair and the armchair remain with Gardner descendants. Other publications including these chairs are Deerfield 1956, p. 234; Fales 1972, p. 67; Fairbanks and Bates 1981, p. 137; Bishop and Coblentz 1982, pp. 72-73.

Book excerpt: Warren, David B., Michael K. Brown, Elizabeth Ann Coleman, and Emily Ballew Neff. American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection. Houston: Princeton Univ. Press, 1998.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Side Chair (one of a pair)
One of a Pair
c. 1730–1800, decoration added c. 1800–1843
Black walnut; soft maple and eastern white pine
39 7/8 × 22 × 20 1/2 in. (101.3 × 55.9 × 52.1 cm)
Credit Line

The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of Miss Ima Hogg

Current Location
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Accession Number

Samuel Pickering Gardner (1767–1843), Boston [1]; […]; [John S. Walton, New York]; purchased by Miss Hogg, 1953. Two distinct numbering systems found in the nine known chairs indicates that at least two sets were combined, presumably for Samuel Pickering Gardner. It is published that the chairs descended to Gardner’s grandniece Eliza Blanchard, but the provenance of two of them suggests a direct line of descent through Gardner's descendants. The Bayou Bend chairs’ history, subsequent to Gardner’s ownership, is not known. The Blanchard association is first recorded in Dean A. Fales, American Painted Furniture, 1660–1880 (New York: Dutton, 1972), p. 67. The chair Sotheby's auctioned in 1989 descended from Gardner's daughter Mary (Mrs. Francis Cabot Lowell, 1802–1854); to her daughter Mary (Mrs. Algernon Coolidge, 1833–1915); to her daughter Mary (Mrs. Frederick Otis Barton, 1868–1957); to the consignor. A second chair, owned by Gardner's son George (1809–1884), descended to his daughter Elizabeth (Mrs. Charles W. Amory, b. 1843); to her daughter Clara (Mrs. T. Jefferson Coolidge, b. 1872); to her son.