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Robert F. Trent, Erik Gronning, and Alan Anderson
The Gaines Attributions and Baroque Seating in Northeastern New England

American Furniture 2010

Full Article
Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Side chair attributed to John Gaines III, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1735–1743. Maple. H. 40 1/4", W. 20 1/2", D. 17". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The blocked, rush seat and the retaining strips are restored. 

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 1. (Photo, Luke Beckerdite.) 

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Armchair attributed to John Gaines III, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1735–1743. Maple. H. 42 3/16", W. 25 1/2", D. 16 3/8" (seat). (Private collection; photo, Winterthur Library, Decorative Arts Photographic Collection.) This photograph was taken ca. 1930. At that time, the rush on the blocked seat frame and some of the arched retaining strips were missing. 

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Cane chair, London, England, 1710–1720. Beech. H. 53 5/8", W. 18 1/4", D. 18 3/8". (Courtesy, Cape Ann Museum; photo, Andrew Davis.) High-backed London cane chairs with scrolled crests may have influenced the design of Gaines chairs. This example may have been owned in Essex County, Massachusetts, during the eighteenth century.

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 4. (Photo, Andrew Davis.) Although the design of the crest is metropolitan in origin, the carving is perfunctory in execution. 

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    Paper pattern of a reproduction Gaines crest glued to a crest blank. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Reproduction Gaines crest with the apertures sawn out. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.)

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Reproduction Gaines crest partially carved. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.)

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Reproduction Gaines crest at a later stage of carving. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 10
    Figure 10

    Detail of an armchair attributed to John Gaines III, showing an overhead view of the arm. (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, bequest of H. F. du Pont; photo, Laszlo Bodo.) 

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Detail of an armchair attributed to John Gaines III, showing a side view of the arm. (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, bequest of H. F. du Pont; photo, Laszlo Bodo.) 

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    Sawn blank for a reproduction Gaines arm. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.)

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    Roughed-out molding for a reproduction Gaines arm. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.)

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    Carved grip for a reproduction Gaines arm. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    Sawn foot for a reproduction Gaines chair. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.)

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Carved foot for a reproduction Gaines chair. (Courtesy, Andersen & Stauffer; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Detail of a Gaines chair from the Brewster set (see fig. 1), showing the restored, blocked rush seat and arched retaining strips based on those of the armchair illustrated in fig. 2. (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, purchased with funds provided by an anonymous donor and Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Alfond; photo, Jim Schneck.)

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Detail of a Gaines chair from the Brewster set (see fig. 1), showing the small shaved bracket supporting the restored rushed seat frame. 

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Rear view of the chair illustrated in fig. 1, showing the rough dressing of the frame. (Photo, Luke Beckerdite.)

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Side chair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1735–1750. Maple. H. 42 1/4", W. 17 3/4", D. 18 5/8". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, bequest of H. F. du Pont; photo, George Fistrovich.) 

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    Side chair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1720–1735. Walnut and maple. H. 41 1/2", W. 19 1/2", D. 20". (Chipstone Foundation; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    Armchair, possibly Boston, Massachusetts, or Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1730–1750. Maple. H. 42", W. 26", D. 25". ­(Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 23
    Figure 23

    Side chair, possibly Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1730–1750. Maple. H. 42 1/4", W. 19", D. 18 1/4". (Chipstone Foundation; photo, Gavin Ashworth). 

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Armchair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1725–1760. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 44 1/2", W. 26 1/2", D. 22 1/2". (Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Russell Sage; photo, Gavin Ashworth / Art Resource, NY.) 

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Side chair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1735–1750. Maple. H. 40 1/4", W. 20 5/8", D. 16 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Andrew Davis.) An apprentice or journeyman from John Gaines III’s shop may have made this chair.

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Detail of a foot on the chair illustrated in fig. 25, showing the pieced-out toes. (Private collection; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Side chair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1740–1760. Maple. H. 30 7/8", W. 20 3/4", D. 16". (Private collection; photo, Andrew Davis.) An apprentice or journeyman from John Gaines III’s shop may have made this chair. The upholstery is modern. Originally, the chair had a blocked rush seat held by retaining strips. 

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Armchair and two side chairs, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1740–1760. Maple. Dimensions not recorded. (Private collection; photo, Leigh Keno Antiques.) 

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Side chair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1740–1760. Maple. H. 41 3/8", W. 21 3/8", D. 18 1/2". (Courtesy, Strawbery Banke Museum, anonymous loan; photo, Andrew Davis.) The feet are restored. The turnings on the side and rear stretchers are rare in Boston seating but common in Portsmouth work. 

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Armchair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1740–1775. Maple. H. 44  5/8", W. 25 1/2", D. 22 3/4". (Courtesy, Old Sturbridge Village; photo, Andrew Davis.) The bottoms of the feet are restored about 1".

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Armchair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1740–1770. Maple. H. 46 3/4", W. 24 3/4", D. 21 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Andrew Davis.) The bottoms of the feet are restored about 1 1/2".

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Banister back armchair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1740–1770. Maple and rush. H. 45 1/2", W. 25", D. 19". (Collection of Shelburne Museum. 3.3-262. Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) With their drooping terminals, the arms of this chair resemble those on later Portsmouth examples with other crest designs. The tenons on the crests of these chairs usually have only one shoulder, sometimes on the front face, sometimes on the rear face, and the shoulders of the tenons are coped to conform to the rounded posts. 

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Side chair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1740–1770. Maple. H. 40", W. 21", D. 14". ­(Private collection; photo, Northeast Auctions.) 

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Armchair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1730–1760. Maple and ash. H. 45 3/4", W. 25", D. 20". (Courtesy, Strawbery Banke Museum, gift of Sally Sangser and Nancy Borden in memory of their brother Henry Chandler Homer; photo, Andrew Davis.) The feet are missing. 

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Armchair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1730–1760. Maple and ash. Dimensions not recorded. (Private collection; photo, Sotheby’s.) 

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    Side chair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1730–1760. Poplar, maple, and ash. H. 47 1/2", W. 21", D. 16 1/2". (Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Screven Lorillard; photo, Gavin Ashworth / Art Resource, NY.) 

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    Side chair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1750–1775. Maple and ash. H. 48 1/2", W. 18 1/2", D. 20". (Courtesy, Witch House Museum, Department of Parks and Recreation, City of Salem, Massachusetts; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Side chair, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1750–1775. Maple and ash. H. 45 1/2", W. 18 1/2", D. 19". (Courtesy, Witch House Museum, Department of Parks and Recreation, City of Salem, Massachusetts; photo, Andrew Davis.)

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    Overmantel panel, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1740–1760. Pine. 18 1/4" x 55". (Courtesy, Ipswich Museum, gift of George W. Caldwell; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    Side chair, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1740–1760. Maple and ash. H. 52 1/2", W. 18 3/4", D. 13 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Sotheby’s.) 

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    Side chairs, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1740–1760. Maple and ash. H. 46", W. 18 5/8", D. 15 1/2". (Courtesy, Ipswich Museum; photo, Andrew Davis.) The carving of the triangular reserve on the stay rails is slightly different.

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Side chair, possibly John Gaines II or Thomas Gaines I, probably Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1730–1760. Maple. H. 42 1/2", W. 18 1/2", D. 15". (Courtesy, Ipswich Museum; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) It is possible that the maker and carver of this chair were not the same person.

  • Figure 43
    Figure 43

    Side chair, London, England, 1725–1740. Beech. H. 42 1/2", W. 20 1/8", D. 19". (Courtesy, Strawbery Banke Museum, gift of Mary Storer Decatur; photo, Andrew Davis.) The feet are missing. 

  • Figure 44
    Figure 44

    Armchair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1710–1740. Maple and ash. H. 53", W. 24 1/4", D. 24 3/4". (Private collection; photo, Andrew Davis.) The design of this chair has exact parallels in Boston leather chairs. 

  • Figure 45
    Figure 45

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 44. (Photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 46
    Figure 46

    Armchair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1720–1740. Maple and ash. Dimensions not recorded. (Private collection; photo, Northeast Auctions.) This chair and the example illustrated in fig. 44 have rectangular side and rear stretchers, whereas most chairs from other New England ports have turned examples. The use of rectangular side and rear stretchers on Boston banister-back chairs supports Benno Forman’s theory that they were made side by side with leather chairs.

  • Figure 47
    Figure 47

    Side chair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1720–1740. Maple and ash. H. 49", W. 18 3/4", D. 16 3/8". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 48
    Figure 48

    Armchair, Salem, Massachusetts, 1725–1750. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 48 5/8", W. 26 1/8", D. 19". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The feet are restored. The arms of Salem banister-back chairs display marked variation. On this example, the arms have a pronounced outward twist at the wrists and large scrolled terminals. There may be some stylistic relationship between these arms and those of Portsmouth seating. 

  • Figure 49
    Figure 49

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 48. (Photo, Luke Beckerdite.)

  • Figure 50
    Figure 50

    Detail showing the gouge cuts on the upper surfaces of the end volutes of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 48. (Photo, Luke Beckerdite.)

  • Figure 51
    Figure 51

    Armchair, Salem, Massachusetts, 1725–1750. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 49 3/4", W. 22 3/8". (Courtesy, Museum of the City of New York; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The arms of this chair are relatively straight and have small terminals. 

  • Figure 52
    Figure 52

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 51. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 53
    Figure 53

    Side chair, Salem, Massachusetts, 1725–1750. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 48 5/8", W. 18 3/8", D. 16 1/2". (Courtesy, Historic New England, gift of Dorothy S. F. M. Codman.) 

  • Figure 54
    Figure 54

    Side chair, Salem, Massachusetts, 1725–1760. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 48 3/8", W. 18", D. 16 3/4". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.). The feet are restored.

  • Figure 55
    Figure 55

    Side chair, London, England, 1720–1740. Beech. H. 4 3/4$", W. 18 1/2", D. 18". (Private collection; photo, Jim Schneck.)

  • Figure 56
    Figure 56

    Side chair, Salem, Massachusetts, 1735–1760. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 47 7/8", W. 18", D. 16 1/2". (Courtesy, Cape Ann Museum, gift of Alfred Mayor; photo, Andrew Davis.) This chair and its mate descended in the Dennison family of the Annisquam section of Gloucester, Massachusetts. 

  • Figure 57
    Figure 57

    Side chair, Salem, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 47", W. 18", D. 18". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The feet are restored.

  • Figure 58
    Figure 58

    Armchair, Salem, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 49", W. 24 3/4", D. 19". (Courtesy, Glebe House, purchased with funds provided by Lispinard Seabury Crocker; photo, Tom Schwenke.)

  • Figure 59
    Figure 59

    Armchair, southern Essex County, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Woods not recorded. H. 50 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Sotheby’s.) The black-and-gold paint and incised decoration are nineteenth-century embellishments. 

  • Figure 60
    Figure 60

    Side chair, southern Essex County, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Maple. H. 47 1/2", W. 19", D. 16". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, bequest of H. F. du Pont; photo, Jim Schneck.) 

  • Figure 61
    Figure 61

    Armchair, southern Essex County, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. (Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 2 vols. [Framingham, Mass.: Old America Company, 1928], 2:2089.)

  • Figure 62
    Figure 62

    Armchair, Newbury, Massachusetts, 1730–1760. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 49 3/4", W. 23 1/4", D. 19 3/4". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 63
    Figure 63

    Armchair, Newbury, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Woods not recorded. H. 47 1/2", W. 23", D. 16 1/2". (Courtesy, Friends of Historic Kingston and the Fred J. Johnston Museum, bequest of Fred J. Johnston; photo, Douglas Baz.) The feet are restored.

  • Figure 64
    Figure 64

    Side chair, Newbury, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 46", W. 19 1/2", D. 16 1/2". (Courtesy, Historical Society of Old Newbury, gift of Margaret FitzGerald and Iola Benedict; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 65
    Figure 65

    Side chair, Newbury, Massachusetts, 1740–1770, Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 46 5/8", W. 19 1/2", D. 15 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 66
    Figure 66

    Side chair, Newbury, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 45 1/2", W. 19", D. 15 1/4". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 67
    Figure 67

    Side chair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1720–1740. Maple. H. 45 1/2", W. 19", D. 18". (Chipstone Foundation; photo, Skinner.) 

  • Figure 68
    Figure 68

    Side chair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1725–1760. Maple. H. 43 1/2", W. 20 7/8", D. 17". (Private collection; photo, Andrew Davis.)

  • Figure 69
    Figure 69

    Armchair, Boston, Massachusetts, 1730–1750. Maple. H. 48 1/2", W. 25 5/8", D. 23 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Laszlo Bodo.) The feet are partially restored.

  • Figure 70
    Figure 70

    Side chair, possibly Essex County, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Maple, poplar, and ash. H. 47 1/4", W. 18 1/2", D. 17". (Private collection; photo, Andrew Davis.) 

  • Figure 71
    Figure 71

    Side chair, probably northern Essex County, Massachusetts, 1740–1770. Maple and ash. H. 49 1/2", W. 18", D. 16 5/8". (Courtesy, Currier Musuem of Art; photo, Andrew Davis.) This chair is one of four identical examples that reputedly belonged to Meschach Weare of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. 

  • Figure 72
    Figure 72

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 1.

  • Figure 73
    Figure 73

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 4.

  • Figure 74
    Figure 74

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 22.

  • Figure 75
    Figure 75

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 23.

  • Figure 76
    Figure 76

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 30.

  • Figure 77
    Figure 77

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 31.

  • Figure 78
    Figure 78

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 34.

  • Figure 79
    Figure 79

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 36.

  • Figure 80
    Figure 80

    Detail of the crest of the chair (left) illustrated in fig. 41.

  • Figure 81
    Figure 81

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 42.

  • Figure 82
    Figure 82

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 44.

  • Figure 83
    Figure 83

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 48.

  • Figure 84
    Figure 84

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 51.

  • Figure 85
    Figure 85

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 55.

  • Figure 86
    Figure 86

    Detail of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 62.

  • Figure 87
    Figure 87

    Detail of the back of the crest of the armchair illustrated in fig. 62.

  • Figure 88
    Figure 88

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 67.

  • Figure 89
    Figure 89

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 68.

  • Figure 90
    Figure 90

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 70.

  • Figure 91
    Figure 91

    Detail of the crest of the chair illustrated in fig. 71.