IMPORTANT PAIR OF CLASSICAL CARVED MAHOGANY DOLPIN BASE GAME TABLES
Each with an oblong hinged, swivel top with conforming frieze of highly figured mahogany with ebonized molding and burl maple trim supported by a pair of forward-facing carved dolphins resting on a trestle base with an elaborately carved stretcher, raised on carved animal paw feet on brass castors. Secondary wood: Cherry. Minor veneer replacements and restoration to cracks in two dolphins.
Height: 29˝ inches, Width: 38 inches, Depth: 19 inches
Descending in the family of Moses Levy and Charles Ridgely Carroll, these tables were published in Edgar G. Miller, Jr., American Antique Furniture (New York, 1937) Volume Two, page 803. Miller says "a monstrosity in the Empire style...the time and skill spent on the carving on [these] card tables was worthy of a better style, especially on the carving of the scales, of the shells under the skirt, and on the leaves over the feet...". Miller's quaint and parochial perspective belies the power and fancifulness of these great tables.
The use of dolphins as a decorative motif in furniture has both English Regency and French Restauration antecedents and seems to have been popular in New York and Philadelphia, carved in relief or in part, on sofas, card tables and mirrors. It is clear that the inspiration for these tables comes from plate 29, Vol. V of Rudolph Ackerman's Repository of Arts (London, May 1st, 1825).
Only a handful of pieces of period American furniture with fully articulated figural carving exist, mostly New York examples with winged caryatids or swans, all made by Honoré Lannuier and two pairs of card tables with carved eagles attributed to Duncan Phyfe. Most of these are in museum collections. An extremely fine pair of fully carved eagle-base card tables, made in Boston, is in the collection of The White House.
Notably, the rare occurrence of fully carved dolphins exists in two pairs of pier tables and a related center table attributed to Anthony Quervelle of Philadelphia. One of the pier tables, in the collection at Winterthur, is pictured in Wendy A. Cooper, Classical Taste in America (Baltimore Museum of Art, 1993) page 150, also in The Magazine ANTIQUES, "The Furniture of Anthony G. Quervelle", Robert C. Smith, (May, 1973) page 992 and the center table shown in Andy Warhol Estate, Sotheby's April 29, 1988, lot 3231. It is interesting to note that Anthony Quervelle used a pair of dolphins on his own furniture label.
An important arm chair with closely related carved dolphin arm supports, attributed to Henry Connelly of Philadelphia, is pictured in Robert Bishop, Centuries and Styles of the American Chair 1640-1970, (New York, 1972) page 306.
All of these are considered masterpieces of the period.
Provenance: Moses Levy b. Philadelphia 1756, d. 1826, m. Mary Pearce
These "monstrous...fierce-looking creatures of the ocean" (E.G. Miller, Ibid. p.803) can now take their place as icons of the classical period in America.