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Set of Ten Assembled Carved Walnut Dining Chairs

Documentation Signed
Origin United States, Pennsylvania
Period 19th Century
Materials Carved Mahogany
Dimensions
W. 18 in; H. 32.75 in; D. 18 in;
W. 45.72 cm; H. 83.19 cm; D. 45.72 cm;
Condition Excellent.
Creation Date c. 1835
Number of Pieces 8+
Description SET OF TEN CARVED MAHOGANY AND WALNUT DINING CHAIRS
Richard Parkin (1787-1861)
Philadelphia, 1835-1840

The assembled set with Klismos-type curved crest rail with incised border and flame walnut veneer supported by paneled styles, a highly distinctive stay rail of a stylized anthemion issuing scrolls sits above an upholstered seat with paneled seat rail and paneled dies above the turned, tapering front legs with Gothic-type decoration.

H: 32¾” W: 18” D: 18”

Condition: Excellent: Various small repairs including a repair to one stay rail that was broken and has been re-glued and one damaged crest rail. One front leg of one chair has been replaced.

Published: Jonathan A. Boor, Allison, John, Peter and Christopher Boor, Philadelphia Empire Furniture (Hanover, University Press of New England, 2006), p.310.

Carswell Rush Berlin, "Classical Furniture in Federal Philadelphia," Antiques and Fine Art Magazine, (Spring 2007), p. 192-199.

Carswell Rush Berlin, "A Shadow of a Magnitude: The Furniture of Thomas Cook & Richard Parkin," Luke Beckerdite, Ed. American Furniture (Chipstone Foundation, 2013), p. 186, fig. 54.


Slight differences in construction and in how the seats are attached to the frames indicate that this is an assembled set; evidently having four from one set with slip seats and six upholstered chairs from another.

A set of eleven identical chairs in the collection of the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, PA. bear the label of RICHARD PARKIN/ CABINET – MAKER/ EGYPTIAN HALL/ 134 South Second Street/ Philadelphia.

Richard Parkin was born in England about 1787 and died in Philadelphia on September 16, 1861. He was buried in the American Mechanics Cemetery on Islington Lane at 27th Street. It is likely that he received his training in England and it is believed that he arrived in Philadelphia shortly before beginning to appear in city directories in partnership with Thomas Cook.

Cook and Parkin was among the largest, most successful and long-lived cabinetmaking firms in Philadelphia of the Classical period. They are listed in partnership in Philadelphia directories for the first time in 1819 at 26 Bank Street as Chair Manufacturers and then moving in 1820 to 56 Walnut Street, where the partnership would be listed as Cabinet Makers until 1833. Cook also appeared alone as a cabinetmaker in 1819 in Paxton’s Directory at 4 Fromberger’s Court. In 1829 both partners began working outside the partnership at separate addresses, Parkin at 94 South Third Street (at Chestnut) and Cook at 7 Pear (running East-West between Dock and Third, between Walnut and Spruce). By 1833 Parkin was listed at 134 South Second Street, known as “Egyptian Hall”, in a building he leased from cabinetmaker Joseph Barry, while Cook returned to 56 Walnut upon the total dissolution of the partnership. Parkin continued until 1848 to be listed at 134 South 2nd. He continued to work up until a year before his death, moving from Egyptian Hall to Lewis below Thompson in 1848 and was joined there by his son Thomas in 1853 through 1855 when Thomas died. For four years, beginning in 1856, Richard operated a steam sawmill first at 399 Broad then 683 North Broad and finally at Spring Garden where, it seems, he was joined by Richard, Jr. Richard is last listed as a cabinet maker in 1860 on Spring Garden as Richard Parkin & Son (Richard Parkin, Jr.), when he was living with Richard Jr. at 540 North 12th.

Among the most significant and best known pieces by the firm is an important sideboard in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art bearing the Walnut Street label and dating, presumably, to 1826-1833. Inspired by a design in Thomas Hope’s 1807 Household Furniture, it is pictured in Wendy A. Cooper’s Classical Taste in America 1800-1840 (Baltimore Museum of Art, 1993), p. 56.

Most of the surviving furniture by these cabinetmakers displays a keen sense of high fashion and demonstrates a deep knowledge of period English and French pattern book designs but it also manifests that level of creativity that enabled the very best American cabinetmakers to move beyond the pattern book to create a wholly original and successful design. These chairs are an excellent example.

By 1835, very few American firms produced genuinely original, high-style pieces and most of the furniture trade had devolved into production of simple plain-style furniture in which the figure of the veneer was the primary decorative element, with few if any distinctive regional characteristics. Chairs of this caliber set Parkin apart from the majority of his competitors, not just in Philadelphia but in the United States, and establish him on a very high plain.
Styles / Movements Classical, Neoclassical, Regency
Book References Published: Jonathan A. Boor, Allison, John, Peter and Christopher Boor, Philadelphia Empire Furniture (Hanover, University Press of New England, 2006), p.310.
Article References Carswell Rush Berlin, "A Shadow of a Magnitude: The Furniture of Thomas Cook & Richard Parkin," Luke Beckerdite, Ed. American Furniture (Chipstone Foundation, 2013), p. 186, fig. 54.
Dealer Reference Number S-S-SBH-961301
Incollect Reference Number 201993
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