Chest of Drawers
Attributed to Jean-Ferdinand Schwerdfeger (French, active 1760–1798)
Object Place: Europe, Paris, France
90.8 x 124.14 cm (35 3/4 x 48 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oak, mahogany, gilt-bronze mounts, marble
Ann and William Elfers Gallery (Gallery 245)
Mahogany commode veneered on oak, with gilt-bronze mounts, white marble top. Gilt-bronze moldings imitate basketry, as do the capitals of the side columns. The top drawers are decorated with a scrolling border of sunflowers, leaves, and thistles.
Possibly part of furnishings made for Marie-Antoinette's Trellis Bedchamber at the Petit Trianon, near Paris [see note 1]. 1794-1796, probably acquired in Paris by James Swan, Boston, MA [see note 2]; after 1796, with his wife, Hepzibah Clark Swan (d. 1825), Dorchester, MA; 1825, after her death, by inheritance to one of her three daughters [see note 3], and eventually inherited by a descendant, Mrs. Helen Hudson Whipple; 1960, sold by Mrs. Helen Hudson Whipple to the MFA for $1,500. (Accession date: April 14, 1960)
 Several hypotheses concerning the early provenance of this chest of drawers, along with a fall front secretary (MFA 1979.484), are provided by Jeffrey Munger in "Royal French Furniture in 18th Century Boston," p. 121-124.  James Swan was a merchant established in Paris, and was appointed an official agent for the purchase of supplies in the United States in 1794 by the French Government. His partner was Johann-Caspar Schweizer, a Swiss. According to Howard Rice, the French Government placed at his disposal luxury goods to be exchanged in America for food supplies and war materials. The Swan and Schweizer agency shipped these articles to the United States between 1794-1795, where much of it was sold. However, this piece was among those that Swan kept for his personal use. See H. Rice "James Swan, Agent of the French Republic 1794-1796" The New England Quarterly, Vol. X, No. 3, Sept. 1937, p. 464-486.  The three daughters of James and Hepzibah Swan were Mrs. John T. Sargent, Mrs. William Sullivan, and Mrs. John C. Howard, all of Boston, MA.
Helen and Alice Colburn Fund