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High chest of drawers


Object number

RIF2511

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

Height: 165.1 cm (65 in.); Width, uppercase cornice: 95.885 cm (37 3/4 in.); Width, upper case: 88.583 cm (34 7/8 in.); Depth, upper case cornice: 55.245 cm (21 3/4 in.); Depth, upper case: 49.53 cm (19 1/2 in.); Width, lower case overall (mid-molding): 98.425 cm (38 3/4 in.); Width, lower case): 94.615 cm (37 1/4 in.) Other (Depth, lower case overall (mid-molding)): 55.245 cm (21 3/4 in.) Other (Depth, lower case): 53.023 cm (20 7/8 in.)

Date

1700–1730

Current location

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Geography

Made in Rhode Island, or possibly made in eastern Connecticut
(view a map of Rhode Island)

Medium

Maple and eastern red cedar (herringbone banding); black walnut (veneer on flat front frieze, on front edge of upper sides, on all drawer fronts, and on front of lower case, all moldings including convex frieze molding, old square caps at top of legs); maple (top and sides of upper case, lower case sides, edging strip on skirts, legs, feet, rear stretcher); eastern white pine (back of both cases, core of drawer fronts and of flat front frieze, all vertical partitions drawer runners, some drawer sides, backs, bottoms, and runner strips, slats under bottom of upper case, left and front members of framework and outer boards at top of lower case); chestnut (upper case bottom, upper case drawer dividers and rear rail, some drawer sides, backs bottoms, and runner strips, right member of framework and center board at top of lower case, filler strip at top of lower case back, core of front skirt); poplar [populus] (leg blocks)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

Upper case: “1,” in chalk, on exterior proper-left side of proper-right upper drawer; “Ca [or o][?],” in chalk, on exterior proper-right side of upper middle drawer; “/,” in chalk, on interior back of proper-left upper drawer and on interior proper-right sides of upper middle and proper-right drawers; “3,” in chalk, on exterior proper-left side of proper-left upper drawer; "III," inscribed with chisel on exterior bottom of proper-left upper drawer; “X” and loop, in chalk, on interior back of upper long drawer; illegible chalk, on exterior back of upper long drawer; loop, in chalk, on interior proper-left and proper-right [faint] sides of upper long drawer; “X,” in chalk, on interior back of middle long drawer; loop, in chalk, on interior proper-right side [and possibly interior proper-left side] of middle long drawer; “X,” in chalk, on interior back of lower drawer; loop, in chalk, on interior proper-left side of lower drawer; “X,” in chalk, on interior back of cornice drawer; “5 More,” in graphite, on exterior back of case; "J.Mills [later]," in graphite, on exterior top back board of case. (Lower case: “X,” in chalk, on interior back of middle lower drawer: illegible chalk [number?], on proper-left side of middle lower drawer; “/,” in chalk, on interior sides and back and exterior back of proper-left lower drawer; compass-drawn concentric partial circles and other markings, scratched on exterior proper-left side of proper-left lower drawer

Style

William and Mary

Provenance

William W. Smith, Hartford, Connecticut. Charles Woolsey Lyon, New York; sold to Mrs. J. Insley Blair (née Natalie Knowlton, 1884–1951), Tuxedo Park, New York, 1923; given to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1950

Associated names

William W. Smith
Charles Woolsey Lyon
Natalie Knowlton Blair

Construction

On the upper case, the top and bottom are joined to the sides with through dovetails, each element consisting of a wide (front) and a narrow (back) board. The back, originally three horizontal boards, is nailed to a rabbet in the top and sides. Under the top, spanning the front of the case, is a narrow board (joint to sides unclear) that provides the substrate for the veneer on the flat front frieze. It abuts a drawer divider above the pulvinated frieze, which is formed by a convex molding that on the facade is applied to the front of a hidden long drawer. The drawer dividers (3 in. deep) are let into the sides, with the one above and below the top long drawer having what is probably a sliding half- or full-dovetail joint at the front, which is hidden on the front by veneer but exposed on the side. The vertical partitions between the three short drawers in line (1 in. deep) are tenoned through the dividers. Behind each partition is a runner that is rabbeted at each end to fit into a recess in the divider and in a rear rail (the same size as the dividers) that is housed in the sides. All other runners are nailed to the case sides. The case rests on slats under the bottom. The upper mid-molding has a distinct ovolo and cavetto above the fascia instead of the usual cyma reversa. On the lower case, the back and the front skirt are joined to the sides with half-blind dovetails. A framework of three boards half-lapped at the front corners is nailed to the top of the case. Three transverse boards nailed to a rabbet on the framework's inner edge and through a filler strip to the top of the back enclose the case. A broad ovolo molding is applied to the framework's outer edge, which is a little shy (1/4") of the outer edge of the case; the molding is nailed on. The rectangular, vertical transverse partitions between the drawers are nailed to the front skirt and let into the back and secured with a nail through the back. The runners (two for each drawer) are housed in the back and have a beveled front end that fits into a conforming recess in the skirt. The attachment of the edging strip on the skirt, and of the legs, stretchers, and feet is similar to that on cat. no. 123, except that only the front corner blocks extend to the top of the case. On all the drawers, the sides are joined to the front and back with two to four through dovetails. The bottom runs transversely and is nailed to a rabbet in the front and to the bottom of the other sides. The drawer glides on runner strips applied under the bottom at each side. The three long drawers are fitted with locks. Source: Frances Gruber Safford, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art , (New York, N.Y.: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007), 328.

Bibliography

Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926), vol. 1, pp. 76–78, fig. 67.
Vincent D. Andrus, "Some Recent Gifts of Early New England Furniture," Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin n.s. 9 (May 1951): 243, ill.
Vincent D. Andrus, "American Furniture from the Blair Collection," Antiques 61, no. 2 (February 1952): 165, ill.
Helen Comstock, "The American Highboy," Antiques 80, no. 3 (September 1961): fig. 3.
Marvin D. Schwartz, American Furniture of the Colonial Period: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1976), no. 30, ill.
Phillip M. Johnston, The William and Mary Style in America, exh. cat. (New York: Cooper-Hewitt Museum, National Design Museum, 1988), 67, fig. 70.
Frances Gruber Safford, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1. Early Colonial Period, The Seventeenth-Century and William and Mary Styles (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007), 327-330, no. 127, ill.