Having the last name Van Rensselaer and a family tree that traced its roots back to the first major landowner in the Hudson Valley was enough to ensure that Philip Van Rensselaer was a member of the upper class. However, class in 18th century America wasn't simple. Although his last name and pedigree ensured him a place in the upper level of 18th century Albany society, it did not mean that all upper class gentlemen were created equal. In fact, Philip Van Rensselaer would have been socially inferior to Albany gentlemen such as General Philip Schuyler and the Patroon Stephen Van Rensselaer. Much of what Philip did with his life and for his family seems to indicate his desire to propel his family further up the social ladder. His words and deeds show that he considered himself a gentleman, equal to any located at the apex of 18th century Albany society.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Historic Cherry Hill Collection

Sofa. Mahogany. New York, c. 1785

Upholstered frame with curved back and rolled arms, squared and tapered front legs, squared and splayed rear legs, joined by stretchers, rectangular in section. The lower back rail is branded PVR for Philip Van Rensselaer. Although the basic form is Chippendale in inspiration, the tapered front legs suggest that this piece was made in the last quarter century of the eighteenth century. This eighteenth century couch is unique in that it is one of the few existing fold-out couches for that time period. The above picture demonstrates how it can be opened.

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