18th-Century Philadelphia Chippendale Chair

Value (2012) | $15,000 Auction$18,000 Auction

John, this is one of the oldest pieces of American furniture we've seen today. It's actually a Philadelphia side chair made of mahogany, about 1760 or so. And it has all the attributes of the Philadelphia Rococo school, including this rocaille shell with these volutes and ruffles and acanthus leaves. Scrolled terminals, strapwork splat with volutes flanking. And then this trapezoidal seat, which is supported on these acanthus leaf carved and volute carved cabriole legs, ending in beautifully carved claw-and-ball feet. It's actually a great example of a Philadelphia side chair. You can see this beautifully striped mahogany that the cabinetmaker and the carvers chose to feature on the seat rail in the front here, and also on the splat. What I love about this chair is when we turn it sideways, you can look at the profile, and it's just got this beautiful, unusually dramatic flair to the rear legs.


I love that rake also. It makes it look like it's leaning forward, ready to take off. And in addition to what Leslie pointed out, I like the fact that it actually has its original poplar seat frame, which is marked number one, number one in the set. It's absolutely original. It's an 18th century, you know, 1770 seat frame with a reproduction crewel stitch on it. Yeah. And on the chair itself, you actually also have a number one. And the chair has its original poplar two-part glue blocks, typical of a Philadelphia glue block. So everything makes sense on it. Now, John, you said that you came about this chair in a very unusual way.

A couple of years ago I had a roommate who owed me some back rent which he just couldn't pay. So instead he offered me this chair, and I accepted it, because I loved it. It was already in the apartment. He inherited this from his aunt who had passed away a few years before. That's about as much as I know about it.

Did he have a pretty good idea of the value when he gave it to you, or he just...

Well, he seemed to think that it was an authentic 18th-century chair. And I could never prove that, but I took him at his word.

And may I ask how much the rent was?

It would have been about $700.

Well, how would you feel if Les and I told you that this chair could easily be estimated at auction in the range of $15,000?

Oh, my goodness.

Yeah, $15,000 to about $18,000.

That's unbelievable. I had no idea.

Do you think he's watching the show? He's probably like, "That's my roommate! "I gave him that chair. I want it back."

I hope he's not watching.

Appraisal Details

Keno Auctions
New York, NY
Update (2012)
$15,000 Auction$18,000 Auction
Appraised value (1997)
$15,000 Auction$18,000 Auction
San Francisco, CA (August 09, 1997)

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