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Side Chairs

Black, Samuel __Attributed to
Place Made:
Edenton North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany, yellow pine, poplar
HOA: 39 1/2; WOA: 22; DOA: 18 1/8
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Pair of side chairs: Have rococo carved splats and spandrels beneath the seat; straight Marlboro legs connected with four stretchers, one in the back and the two on each side joined by a central one.

DESIGN: The backs of the chairs are adapted from Plate XIII of the first two editions (1754 and 1755) of Thomas Chippendale’s THE GENTLEMAN AND CABINETMAKER’S DIRECTOR.

CONSTRUCTION: Unusual construction details include long open mortises under the seat rails, cut to receive tenons on the pierced spandrels; the spandrels are glued to the front legs. The center stretchers are mortised through the side stretchers in a manner observed on chairs of the Cape Fear region of North Carolina; a similar detail has been seen on Virginia chairs, but the Virginia examples have a different tenon form.

MAKER: The British-born cabinetmaker Samuel Black (d. 1783) first appeared in Edenton tax records in 1759. He later married Frances Glass, had two daughters, Elizabeth and Dorothy, and established a prominent cabinet shop enjoying the patronage of many of Edenton’s leading citizens, such as Samuel Johnston of nearby Hayes Plantation. At the time of his death, he owned extensive cabinetmaking tools and equipment.

The attribution of these chairs has been difficult. At various times a Norfolk, Virginia, and a New Bern, North Carolina, origin has been suggested. Recent provenance research by Robert Leath suggests that these chairs may have been made in Edenton, North Carolina. The earliest known owner of the chairs was John Mushro Roberts of Edenton and later New Bern, North Carolina. According to Roberts family tradition, the chairs came to New Bern with their ancestor. Roberts’ first wife, Dorothy (Black) McDonald Skinner Roberts was the daughter of Edenton cabinetmaker Samuel Black (d. 1783). Thus, the attribution to Samuel Black is reasonable.
Credit Line:
Gift of Mary Niven Alston, by exchange