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Photo: Courtesy Newport Restoration Foundation, R.I.; photo by Christopher Gardner
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High chest of drawers


Object number

RIF1210

Maker

Maker Benjamin Baker, 1734 or 1735–1822

Dimensions

223.52 x 99.695 x 53.34 cm (88 x 39 1/4 x 21 in.)

Date

1760–1775

Current location

Newport Restoration Foundation, Rhode Island

Geography

Made in Newport, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)

Medium

Mahogany (primary); Spanish cedar (drawer linings); yellow poplar (drawer runners, tip bars for top drawers, and supports for upper drawer of lower case); pine (top and bottom boards of upper case, backboards of upper and lower case and pediment, backs of horizontal and vertical drawer dividers, glue blocks, and drawer supports and guides)

Marks

“Benjamin / Baker [upside down],” in graphite, on exterior lower case back above proper-right rear leg

Inscriptions

"HIGHBOY / Mahogany / Inscribed by Benjamin Baker (d. 1822) / Joiner and Furniture Salesman / of Newport, Rhode Island / Newport, about 1770 / Lent by Newport Restoration Foundation / L. 1971.57," typed on paper label affixed to interior drawer bottom; "David Stockwell / 256 S.16th Street / Philadelphia 2, Pa.;" printed in red on a label affixed to interior drawer bottom; "Top," in graphite, on interior top of upper case; “A,” in graphite, on interior back of upper proper-right drawer; “B,” in graphite, on interior back of upper middle drawer; “C,” in graphite, on interior back of upper proper-left drawer; arcs, in graphite, across center bottom of exterior backboard ; "D," in graphite, on interior back of top long drawer of upper case; "E," in graphite, on interior back of middle long drawer of upper case;"F," in graphite, on interior back of lower long drawer in upper case; "A," in graphite, on upper surface of drawer divider under central top drawer of upper case; "B" or "3," in graphite, on upper surface of drawer divider under upper long drawer; sketch of a flower and other doodles, in graphite, on upper surface of drawer divider under middle long drawer; "Nelly," incised on upper surface of drawer divider under middle long drawer; detailed sketch of a bird, two profiles of birds, and the word “Bottom [very faint],” in graphite, on interior surface of bottom board of upper case; “A,” in graphite, on the interior back of long drawer of lower case; “B,” in graphite on upper surface of drawer divider under top drawer of lower case

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

By descent in the Lyman-Hazard family, Peace Dale, Rhode Island. David Stockwell, Inc., Philadelphia, ca. 1950. Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, May 22, 1971, lot 199; sold to Doris Duke (1912–1993), Newport, Rhode Island; bequeathed to the Newport Restoration Foundation, Rhode Island, 1993

Associated names

Lyman-Hazard family
David Stockwell, Inc.
Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc.
Doris Duke

Construction

The scrolling pediment is open, crowned by a beading molding fixed to its multi-board roof, single-piece scrollboard, and two-board case sides with brads. The molding continues into the open area behind the central molded and fluted plinth, which supports a reeded vasiform finial with a corkscrew flame, below which are thumb-molded and "book-matched" scrollboard plaques. The upper-case back consists of a serpentine-top board above half-lapped horizontal boards fixed with rosehead nails to rabbets in the case sides and with brads to horizontal members within the case. The upper case has a two-board ceiling dovetailed to the case sides, below which are transverse strips, nailed with brads to the case sides, which prevent the small drawers from tipping forward. The small drawers have a transverse support set into grooves in the case sides. To this board are joined small-drawer supports at the case sides which are half-lapped at the back and nailed with brads to the case sides and, in the center of the case tenoned at the back and half-lapped to the upper drawer divider. The long drawers below have drawer supports (some turned) fixed to the case sides with rosehead nails. The scrollboard, drawer dividers, bottom rail, and vertical uprights beside the small drawers all meet their respective neighboring elements in half-blind dovetail joints. Behind the bottom rail are three rectangular horizontal glue blocks. The three small upper and three long lower drawer fronts are kerf-marked, lipped, molded and graduated, meeting their arched-top, slightly shorter drawer sides in dovetail joints, having small, finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The underside of the three upper drawers are fitted with touch-latches (one missing) held on with rosehead nails. The flat, single-board upper-drawer bottoms are perpendicular to the fronts and full-width; runners are glued to their bottoms. They are fixed with brads to the drawer backs. The back edges and the outside corners of the drawer-back tops are chamfered. The long drawers are constructed similarly. Their single-board, full-width bottoms are different, however, being parallel to and chamfered at the front, where they fit into grooves, and at the sides, where their connection to the drawer sides is concealed by applied runners. There is a transverse batten applied with brads to the top of the upper long-drawer?s bottom board. The bottom of the upper case consists of two horizontal boards. A single-piece base molding is nailed with brads to the bottom of the upper-case sides. In the lower case, single-board, scallop-skirted sides are half-blind dovetailed to a single-board straight-skirted back. At its left and right lower extremities are separate scallop-skirted portions of the backboard. The top rail, drawer divider and skirt-board meet the stiles in joints concealed by veneer. Within the case are wide supports for the upper drawers. These are topped by full-depth drawer guides. The small drawers below have guides attached to the case sides, guides attached to the skirtboard, and supports half-blind dovetailed to the skirtboard and set into grooves in the backboard. They are constructed in a manner similar to those above, except for the small-drawer bottoms, which are perpendicular to the fronts and full-width, without runners, and nailed with brads to the elements above. The legs are of the "removable" sort, glued and screwed into the case corners with multiple vertical blocks. They are square-sectioned, with angular knees. The back legs are uncarved, ending in shod pad feet. The knees of the front legs are carved with stylized vegetal motifs. The ankles are deeply carved and undercut, as are the talons below. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, March 27, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Notes


Bibliography

Dorothy Ellesin, "Antiques at Auction: Highlights of the 1970-1971 Season Across the Country," Antiques 100, no. 4 (October 1971): 534, ill.
Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, Important Eighteenth Century American Furniture and Decorations, sale cat. (May 22, 1971), 58–59, lot 199, ill.
Wendy A. Cooper, In Praise of America: American Decorative Arts, 1650–1830, Fifty Years of Discovery since the 1929 Girl Scouts Loan Exhibition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), 27, fig. 25.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 194, fig. 3.110, 3.110a–b.
Jeanne Vibert Sloane, "John Cahoone and the Newport Furniture Industry," Old-Time New England 72 (1987): 100, fig. 1.
Gerald W. R. Ward, "American's Contribution to Craftsmanship: The Exaltation and Interpretation of Newport Furniture," American Furniture (1999): 232–233, fig. 6.
Dennis Andrew Carr, "The Account Book of Benjamin Baker," American Furniture (2004): 46, 49–51, fig. 1–2, 5.
Patricia E. Kane et al., Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2016), 302–305, no. 58, fig. 1–3.