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Luke Beckerdite
Thomas Johnson, Hercules Courtenay, and the Dissemination of London Rococo Design

American Furniture 2016

Full Article
Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Charles Townley after Joseph Allen, Thomas Johnson, frontispiece in A Brief History of Freemasonry (2nd ed., 1784). (Courtesy, Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London.) 

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Thomas Johnson, “Contrast bracket to hold a small figure or busto,” London, 1793, from a design drawn in 1746. Etching and aquatint. (Thomas Johnson, The Life of the Author [1793]; courtesy, Library and Museum of Freemasonry.) Matthias Lock’s influence is evident in the drawing and posture of the dragon and style of the leafage, scrolls, and flowers. For related work by Lock, see his 1746 etching of a sideboard table in Peter Ward Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1958), pl. 50. 

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Portrait bust from a chimneypiece, attributed to John Houghton and stonecutter David Sheenhan, from Kenmare House, County Kerry, Ireland, ca. 1752. (Courtesy, Bonhams.) 

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Thomas Johnson, Girandole with “a ruinated building, with cattle, &c.,” London, 1793, from a design drawn in 1755. Etching and aquatint. (Thomas Johnson, The Life of the Author [1793]; courtesy, Library and Museum of Freemasonry.) 

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Girandole design attributed to Matthias Lock, London, ca. 1750. Pen and ink wash. 10" x 5 3/8". (© Victoria & Albert Museum; George Lock Collection.) 

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    High chest of drawers with carving attributed to Bernard and Jugiez, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1770–1775. Mahogany with yellow pine, tulip poplar, and white cedar. H. 96 3/4", W. 45 1/2", D. 24 1/2". (Courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art; photo, Graydon Wood.) The carving on the chest and its matching dressing table is attributed to Bernard and Jugiez. Their firm advertised in several coastal cities and shipped carving as far south as Charleston, South Carolina. Bernard and Jugiez also did commission work for prominent Philadelphians, including Chief Justice Benjamin Chew, Samuel Powel, and John Cadwalader, and cabinetmakers, including Thomas Affleck. The carvers may have worked for Benjamin Randolph, who clearly had access to Johnson’s designs. On August 4, 1771, Nicholas Bernard received a note from Randolph for £40 “payable in Six Months wen paye Shall be in full” (Benjamin Randolph Receipt Book, Winterthur Museum). 

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Detail of the appliqué on the center drawer of the lower case of the high chest illustrated in fig. 6. 

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Detail of a design for a pier glass illustrated on pl. 21 in Thomas Johnson’s One Hundred & Fifty New Designs (London, 1761). (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.) Johnson sold his designs in installments between 1756 and 1757 and as collected editions in 1758 [untitled] and 1761 [titled]). Jacob Simon, “Thomas Johnson’s The Life of the Author,” Furniture History 39 [2003]: 10). 

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Parlor in Cloverfields, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, ca. 1728, with carving installed ca. 1770. (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.) 

  • Figure 10
    Figure 10

    Detail of the chimneypiece appliqué illustrated in fig. 9. 

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Detail of the chimneypiece appliqué illustrated in fig. 9. 

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    Detail of a design for a mirrored overmantel frame illustrated on plate 5 in Thomas Johnson’s One Hundred & Fifty New Designs (London, 1761). (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.) 

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    Parlor from the Blackwell House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, built ca. 1764. (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.) The carving was probably installed between 1766 and 1770. 

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    High chest of drawers with carving attributed to Hercules Courtenay, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1765–1775. Mahogany and mahogany veneer with yellow pine, tulip poplar, and white cedar. H. 91 3/4", W. 44 5/8", D. 22 1/2". (Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum of Art.) 

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    Detail of the tablet on the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 13. 

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Design for a chimneypiece tablet illustrated on plate 3 on Thomas Johnson’s A New Book of Ornaments By Thos. Johnson Carver, Design’d for Tables & Frizes for Chimneypieces; Useful for Youth to Draw After (London, 1762). (© Victoria & Albert Museum.) 

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Detail of the drawer appliqué on the high chest illustrated in fig. 14. 

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Design for a chimneypiece tablet illustrated on plate 5 in Thomas Johnson’s A New Book of Ornaments By Thos. Johnson Carver, Design’d for Tables & Frizes for Chimneypieces; Useful for Youth to Draw After (London, 1762). (© Victoria & Albert Museum.)

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Parlor from the Thomas Ringgold House, American, Chestertown, Maryland, ca. 1770. Carver: John Pollard. Carver: Hercules Courtenay. Maker: unknown builder/architect. Yellow pine and mahogany, King of Prussia marble. H. 119 1/4, W. 263, D. 201 1/2". (Courtesy, The Baltimore Museum of Art, purchased as the gift of Emma James Johnson in memory of her husband J. Hemsley Johnson, BMA1932.32.1; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Detail of the tablet of the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 19. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    Detail of the right frieze appliqué on the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 19. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    Design for a chimneypiece frieze illustrated on plate 2 in Thomas Johnson’s A New Book of Ornaments By Thos. Johnson Carver, Design’d for Tables & Frizes for Chimneypieces; Useful for Youth to Draw After (London, 1762). (© Victoria & Albert Museum.) 

  • Figure 23
    Figure 23

    Detail of the right frieze appliqué on the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 13.

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Detail of a pier-glass design illustrated on plate 43 in Thomas Johnson’s One Hundred & Fifty New Designs (London, 1761). (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.) 

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Title page of Animals of Various Species Accurately Drawn by Francis Barlow, part three of Various Birds and Beasts Drawn from the Life (London, ca. 1660–1670). (Courtesy, Tate Museum.) 

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Detail of the left frieze appliqué on the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 13.

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Plate 18 in Animals of Various Species Accurately Drawn by Francis Barlow, part three of Various Birds and Beasts Drawn from the Life (London, ca. 1660–1670). (Courtesy, Tate Museum.)

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Detail of the tablet on the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 13. 

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Plate 21 in Animals of Various Species Accurately Drawn by Francis Barlow, part three of Various Birds and Beasts Drawn from the Life (London, ca. 1660–1670). (Courtesy, Tate Museum.)

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Designs for girandoles in the scrapbook of Gideon Saint, London, ca. 1765. (Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum of Art; photo, Art Resource.) These pages include engravings of Thomas Johnson’s designs as well as a pencil drawing of a girandole by Saint. 

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Drawings for looking-glass frames in the scrapbook of Gideon Saint, London, England, ca. 1765. (Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum of Art; photo, Art Resource.) Saint copied these designs from Matthias Lock’s A New Drawing Book of Ornaments, Shields, Compartments, Marks, &c. London, ca. 1746. 

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Title page of Matthias Lock’s The Principles of Ornament or the Youth’s Guide to Drawing of Foliage (London ca. 1746). (Chipstone Foundation.) This page is from Robert Sayer’s ca. 1768 reissue; no copy of the ca. 1746 publication is known. 

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Thomas Johnson, design for a trade card, London, 1769–1775. Watercolor on paper. (© Trustees of the British Museum.)

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Chimneypiece from the parlor of the Samuel Powel House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, built ca. 1765. (Courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The carving was installed in 1770. 

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Detail of the right truss on the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 34. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    Card table with carving attributed to Hercules Courtenay, 1765–1775. Mahogany with oak and yellow pine. Dimensions not recorded. (Private collection; photo, Mack Coffey.) 

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    Detail of the knee carving on the card table illustrated in fig. 36. 

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Detail of the tablet of the chimneypiece illustrated in fig. 34. 

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    James Kirk (etcher) after Francis Barlow, “The Dog and Piece of Flesh,” published by Robert Sayer (London, ca. 1760). (© Trustees of the British Museum.) 

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    Simon Gribelin after Paolo de Mattheis, The Judgment of Hercules, engraving from Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times.

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    James Smithers, trade card of Benjamin Randolph, 1769. Engraving on paper. 7" x 9". (Courtesy, Library Company of Philadelphia.) 

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Bracket, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1765–1770. White pine. H. 16", W. 12 3/4", D. 5 3/8". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.) 

  • Figure 43
    Figure 43

    Design for a bracket illustrated on plate 27 in Thomas Johnson’s One Hundred & Fifty New Designs (London, 1761). (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.)

  • Figure 44
    Figure 44

    Easy chair attributed to the shop of Benjamin Randolph, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1765-1769. Mahogany with white oak. H. 45 1/4", W. 24 3/8", D. 27 15/16". (Courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 45
    Figure 45

    Details of the carving on the left arm support and right leg of the easy chair illustrated in fig. 44. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 46
    Figure 46

    Detail of the front rail of the easy chair illustrated in fig. 44. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 47
    Figure 47

    Design for a pier table attributed to Matthias Lock, London, ca. 1745. Graphite on paper. Dimensions not recorded. (© Victoria & Albert Museum.)

  • Figure 48
    Figure 48

    Side chair attributed to the shop of Benjamin Randolph, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1769. Mahogany with white cedar. H. 36 3/4", W. 21 3/4" (seat), D. 17 7/8" (seat). (Chipstone Foundation; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 49
    Figure 49

    Detail of the back of the side chair illustrated in fig. 48. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 50
    Figure 50

    Side chair attributed to the shop of ­Benjamin Randolph, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1765–1769. Mahogany. H. 37 1/2", W. 24 1/2", D. 21". (Courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 51
    Figure 51

    Detail of the left rear stile of the side chair illustrated in fig. 50. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 52
    Figure 52

    Detail of the carving on the front rail of the side chair illustrated in fig. 50. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 53
    Figure 53

    Detail of the carving on the side rail of the easy chair illustrated in fig. 44. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 54
    Figure 54

    Detail of the carving on the side rail of the pier table illustrated in fig. 55. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 55
    Figure 55

    Pier table attributed to the shop of ­Benjamin Randolph with carving attributed to John Pollard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1765–1770. Mahogany with yellow pine and walnut. H. 32 3/8", W. 48", D. 23 1/4". (Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1918 [18.110.27]; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) 

  • Figure 56
    Figure 56

    Design for a pier glass and table illustrated on pl. 152 in the third edition of Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director (London, 1762). (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.) 

  • Figure 57
    Figure 57

    Detail of the carving on the front rail of the pier table illustrated in fig. 55.

  • Figure 58
    Figure 58

    Detail of the tympanum carving on the high chest illustrated in fig. 14. 

  • Figure 59
    Figure 59

    Detail of the left truss flanking the fireplace in Cloverfields (fig. 9). 

  • Figure 60
    Figure 60

    Frieze appliqué over a door in the parlor illustrated in fig. 13. 

  • Figure 61
    Figure 61

    Firescreen with carving attributed to Hercules Courtenay, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1770. Mahogany. H. 55 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 62
    Figure 62

    Detail of the knee carving on the firescreen illustrated in fig. 61. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 63
    Figure 63

    Tea table with carving attributed to Hercules Courtenay, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1770. Mahogany. H. 27 1/2", Diam. of top: 32 7/8". (Private collection; photo, Christie’s.) 

  • Figure 64
    Figure 64

    Detail of the knee carving on the tea table illustrated in fig. 63. 

  • Figure 65
    Figure 65

    Pier table, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1770. Mahogany with yellow pine. H. 32", W. 54", D. 27". (Courtesy, Rhode Island School of Design; bequest of Charles L. Pendleton.)

  • Figure 66
    Figure 66

    Detail of the knee carving on the pier table illustrated in fig. 65.

  • Figure 67
    Figure 67

    Detail of the leafage in the frieze design illustrated in fig. 22. 

  • Figure 68
    Figure 68

    Side chair with carving attributed to John Pollard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1769. Mahogany with white cedar and yellow pine. H. 37 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Christie’s.) This example, which has the period ink inscription “Deshler” on its slip-seat frame, is from a set of at least six side chairs, two card tables, and an easy chair. 

  • Figure 69
    Figure 69

    Card table with carving attributed to John Pollard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1769. Mahogany with oak and yellow pine. H. 28 3/4", W. 33 3/4", D. 16 1/2" (closed). (Private collection; photo, Christie’s.) 

  • Figure 70
    Figure 70

    Detail of the carving on the back of the side chair illustrated in fig. 68. 

  • Figure 71
    Figure 71

    Detail of the carving on the right front leg of the card table illustrated in fig. 69.