Jelliff Aficianados, Lend Me Your Thoughts
I picked up this chair at auction that at initial glance reminds me of the overall form that a John Jelliff armchair would have. There’s a natural tendency to assume that what you now own is made by the famous maker that you want it to be and to avoid doing too much research that might disprove it. I’m beating back that desire and trying to look at this chair objectively. Plus, it’s more fun that way.
The carved arms are the first thing that hinted that it might be Jelliff, but where are the torsos with human forms? The paw feet would also be an unusual element for Jelliff. The drop finials, carved crest and rosewood composition aren’t out of place for a Jelliff, but those arms with the profiles of carved serpents or dragons… I haven’t seen any chairs like this by anyone. I’ll keep looking for other detail elements to compare with Jelliff pieces with better provenance but in the meantime, I’ve sent an email to the Newark Museum Decorative Arts Department to see if they can help me. Jelliff’s shop was in Newark and if anyone should know, possibly they should.
On a separate but related note, here’s an interesting article I ran into regarding the mystery around pieces attributed to Jelliff that actually could be by Schrenkeisen.