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Photo: Courtesy of Gary R. Sullivan Antiques Inc., Sharon, Mass.; photo by Matthew J. Buckley
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High chest of drawers


Object number

RIF2448

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

Height: 171.45 cm (67 1/2 in.); Width, overall: 104.775 cm (41 1/4 in.); Case width: 96.52 cm (38 in.); Depth, overall: 58.42 cm (23 in.); Case depth: 54.61 cm (21 1/2 in.)

Date

1700–1730

Current location

Private collection

Geography

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

Medium

Walnut and maple veneer and maple (primary); pine (secondary)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“Bottom,” in graphite, on underside of lowest drawer divider of upper case; “center,” in graphite, on underside of middle drawer divider of upper case; “I,” in chalk, on exterior back of top middle drawer of lower case; “II,” in chalk, on exterior back of upper proper-right drawer of lower case; “III,” in chalk, on exterior back of upper proper-left drawer of lower case; illegible inscription, in chalk, on exterior back of lower proper-left drawer of lower case; illegible script letter [or squiggle], in chalk, on exterior proper-right side of center drawer of lower case; "R. H. Breitenstein [&] Son / 74 North main St," in graphite, on underside of rear stretcher; “1761~,” in chalk, on underside of drawer divider for bottom middle drawer of lower case

Style

William and Mary

Provenance

Nathan Smith (1702–1787), Groton, Connecticut; probably by descent to his son Gilbert Smith (1742–1814), Groton, Connecticut; by descent to his son Amos Denison Smith (1778–1826), Groton, Connecticut; by descent to his son Amos Denison Smith (1805– 1877), Groton, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his son Charles Morris Smith (1838–1917), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his son Charles Morris Smith (1864–1926), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his son George Watson Hall Smith (1896–1968), Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts. Skinner, Inc., Boston, February 23, 2003, lot 100; sold to Leigh Keno American Antiques, New York; sold to private collection; consigned to Keno Auctions, New York, January 2014; sold to Gary R. Sullivan Antiques, Inc., Sharon, Massachusetts; sold to a private collection, 2014

Associated names

Nathan Smith
Gilbert Smith
Amos Denison Smith
Amos Denison Smith
Charles Morris Smith
Charles Morris Smith
George Watson Hall Smith
Skinner, Inc.
Leigh Keno American Antiques
Keno Auctions
Gary R. Sullivan Antiques, Inc.

Construction

The top of the upper case consists of several boards, secured by dovetail joints, having three large pins, one half pin, and one rabbeted half-pin to each multiple-board case side. Some dovetails are reinforced with nails. In the proper right upper case-side is a narrow vertical strip, near the front, visible in a dovetail pin above. A single-piece crown molding is applied with wood-filled fasteners to the top of the case sides, and to blocking under the front, which is nailed with brads into the underside of the case top. Below the crown molding, a pulvinated frieze molding is nailed with brads to the case sides. The molding spans the case front as the facing for a "hidden" document drawer. Within the upper case, directly below the top are transverse strips, fixed to the case top and sides, which prevent the frieze drawer from tipping forward. Below, each drawer has full-depth supports, nailed with brads to the case sides, interspersed with vertical drawer stops glued into the rear corners. Separating the two small upper drawers is a stile set into grooves in the drawer dividers above and below. Behind it is a transverse small-drawer support, half-lapped to the drawer divider in front and to the longitudinal support at the back of the case. At the front of the drawer dividers are half-round beads attached with brads. The drawer divider between the uppermost long drawer and the drawer below is dovetailed into the case sides. The two-board upper-case bottom joins the case sides in dovetail joints. A base molding is applied with brads. The drawers below the frieze drawer are flat-fronted; the upper two are each faced to simulate two drawers. The lower drawer fronts are faced similarly, with herringbone crossbanding and burl veneers, to simulate two drawers apiece. They meet their flat-topped drawer sides, of which they are slightly proud, in dovetail joints, having large finely cut, thick-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The flat drawer bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are full width, secured by nailed-on runners, fixed with brads into rabbets in the drawer fronts, and nailed with brads to the drawer backs. In the lower case, two transverse and a horizontal batten are nailed with brads to the case sides and to transverse uprights within the case; they support the upper case. Moldings are nailed with brads to the front and sides. The flat-skirted backboard is dovetailed to the single-board, scalloped-skirted case sides, whose edges are faced with wood strips (replaced) held on with brads. Within the case are two vertical transverse dividers, to the top of which are nailed, with brads, horizontal blocking which prevent the upper drawers from tipping forward. At the back the dividers are set into half-dovetail notched grooves in the backboard. In the front, they are the half-round beaded stiles between the small drawers. Set into grooves in and nailed with brads to the dividers? sides are supports for the upper small drawers, half-lapped to the drawer divider in the case front. Similar small drawer supports are set into grooves in the case sides and back, and half-lapped to the drawer divider in front. Above and below these supports are glued horizontal drawer guides. Small vertical drawer stops are nailed with brads to the case back. Supports for the lower drawers are set into grooves in, and nailed with brads to the top of the front skirt board. Their chamfered ends are set into grooves, laid out with scribe lines, in the backboard. Shadows above these supports indicate the former presence of drawer stops. Vertical rectangular glue blocks occupy each lower corner of the lower case. Similar blocks behind the skirt board help support the transverse drawer dividers. The edges of the arched, serpentine, scalloped front skirt board are faced with wood strips held on with brads. The lower case drawer-fronts, faced similarly to those above, meet their flat-topped sides in dovetail joints, having large, thick-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The drawer-side tops are slightly shy of the front tops. The full-width, full-depth drawer bottoms are nailed to the drawer backs with brads, set into rabbets and nailed to the bottom of the drawer fronts, and nailed with brads through applied runners to the drawer sides. The outside rear corners of the drawers are slightly chamfered. Set into the block with the lower case corners and the lapped corners of flat, scalloped stretchers (which mirror the pattern of the skirt) are elaborately turned legs, with separate bun feet below. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, January 21, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

Skinner, Inc., Boston, American Furniture and Decorative Arts, sale cat. (February 23, 2003), 31, lot 100, ill.
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), 152–154, no. 8, ill.