Published: May 15, 2001
The Curvaceous and Compelling Brings $66,125 at CRN
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – On May 12 a Boston Hepplewhite wing chair was auctioned for $66,125 by Carl Nordblom of CRN Auctions. Bidding opened at $10,000, and a half a dozen bidders were in the chase at $40,000. At $46,000 the contest had narrowed to two phone bidders and one bidder in the room. After $50,000, two phone bidders jousted for the masterpiece.
This is the finest example of a Boston Hepplewhite wing chair to appear on the market in half a century. It is a match for the Howe wing chair on exhibit at the Sheppard parlor of the MFA. Most period American wing chairs were produced during the Queen Anne and Chippendale periods, and Federal style wing chairs are far less common.
The chair was decidedly American. The two or three examples that have surfaced have all had Boston sources, and the secondary woods were either maple or birch in the upper frame and pine for tertiary elements. Mahogany was used in the exposed legs and stretchers.
The following day, the successful bidder stated, “The welcoming curvaceousness of this wing chair and its cogender differ from the earlier stretcher base wing chairs. Its direct, undegraded relationship with Hepplewhite plate 15, and refined construction indicate direct knowledge of what was ‘au courant’ in Britain in the late 1780s as well as first-rate training. This is the second wonderful chair that I have purchased at Carl Nordblom’s auctions.”
The chair incorporated exceptional design with excellent workmanship. The design was not as massive as those of earlier periods, but it incorporated strong cyma-curved wings whose shape extended front to back. Many boards were planed to different angles on each of their four sides to achieve the most refined configuration. Another indication of exceptional craftsmanship was that after two centuries of use, the frame of the chair remained remarkably tight.
While the chair was presented essentially nude so potential buyers could examine its exposed frame, shoppers had the opportunity to drive across the Charles River and study a fully upholstered version at the MFA. That example demonstrated that the light frame was consistent with the Hepplewhite style and that the chair was highly elegant. In a search of the literature, this is the finest illustrated example of an American Hepplewhite wing chair that could be found. Now there are two.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm