Something Old, Something New: Continuity & Change, American Fine Furnishings 1700–1820
May 12, 2013 - October 31, 2013
Harvard Chest (detail)
Harvard Chest, 1700-1725, Essex County, Massachusetts, pine.
Collection of Shelburne Museum.
By the 18th century the chest of drawers is strengthened by new construction techniques. The drawer fronts and sides are now crudely dovetailed, rather than nailed together, which allowed the craftsman to use thinner boards of wood. The drawers no longer run on grooves cut into the middle of the drawer sides but slide instead on the bottom edge of the drawer side. They are now graduated in height from top to bottom, and fitted with distinctive brass “teardrop” shaped pulls, following British tradition.
Six Drawer Chest
Six Drawer Chest, 1820-1830, Vermont,bird’s eye maple, walnut veneer. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
The storage functions of this late Federal style chest have become more specialized. The uppermost long drawer is now deeper than the three below, perhaps designed to hold bonnets, and two small glove drawers have been added to the top surface.
The reliance upon contrasting bird’s eye maple and walnut veneers for the sleek, undecorated surfaces suggest the work of a Vermont cabinetmaker.
High Chest, c. 1720, North Shore, Massachusetts (Salem or Newburyport), pine, walnut, walnut veneer. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
The high chest is a tall case piece consisting of two sections of drawers raised on legs, which developed at the end of the 17th century.
The facade of the piece is covered in burled walnut veneers. To create this decorative effect, the cabinetmaker saws a thin layer from the burl - a diseased lump on a tree - which has an irregular grain. He glues this highly figured wood onto the plain base frame of white pine.
Hadley Chest, ca. 1700, Hatfield, Massachusetts, oak and pine with traces of red and black paint. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
The Hadley chest dates from about 1700 and is one of only about two hundred of its kind that survive today. It was made by an unknown joiner from the area near Hadley, Massachusetts. The chest prominently displays the initials “MW” for Martha Williams (born 1690) of Hatfield, Massachusetts, who married Edward Partridge in 1707. It was made for Martha as part of her wedding celebrations.
Table Base, ca. 1680, New England, oak. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
American furniture of this early period is extremely rare and this is one of only three surviving oak square table bases from all of British North America. In style, the square joined table derives from the Anglo-Germanic tradition practiced in England and Holland during the 17th century. The top, now missing, would have been assembled from several boards joined together. This construction feature together with the use of massive turnings relates to English and Dutch forms of the period.
Pier Table and Wall Clock
Pier Table, c. 1810, Vermont, birch with maple and mahogany veneer. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
This side table was originally designed to stand against a pier or wall section between two windows or doors. Usually a pier glass, a narrow tall mirror with ornate frame, would be hung over the table.
The pronounced swell at the base of the tapered leg is common to New England furniture and the contrast in light and dark veneers suggests a Vermont origin.
Curtis & Dunning (Burlington, Vermont), Wall Clock, 1822-1832, mahogany, oak, brass, gilding. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
Attributed to John Goddard (Newport, Rhode Island,1723-1785), roundabout chair, 1760-1780, mahogany, maple, and pine. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
Early 18th-century Americans saw roundabout or corner chairs in English portraiture - and liked them.
The undulating serpentine shape of the arms, interlaced splats, and the distinctive carving style of the ball and claw feet with undercut talons suggest a Newport, Rhode Island origin. Due to its similarity to a documented corner chair made for the wealthy 18th-century merchant John Brown, it too was probably made by John Goddard.
Block Front Chest Drawers
Block Front Chest of Drawers, 1770-1790, A.E. STUYVESANT written in ink inside second drawer, Massachusetts, cherry, white pine, brass. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
The block front façade is an American interpretation of a European-inspired form introduced in Boston. The design is time-consuming, and serves no functional purpose except to proclaim the taste and the affluence of the owner. The convex and concave panels formed from a solid piece of wood cost more than a plain piece.
Horace Nichols (Middlebury, Vermont, active 1815-1849), washstand, 1815-1849, bird’s eye maple, mahogany veneers.
Collection of Shelburne Museum.
This elegant corner washstand with square tapering legs is derived from the “Bason Stand” in George Hepplewhite’s 1794 design book and was a form popular in urban centers such as Boston and the North Shore of Massachusetts.