High chest of drawers

about 1700–20


Object Place: probably Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Catalogue Raisonné

Randall 51

Dimensions

Overall: 161 x 101.6 x 54.3 cm (63 3/8 x 40 x 21 3/8 in.)

Accession Number

40.607

Medium or Technique

Maple, walnut veneer, maple burl veneer, pine

On View

Burton A. Cleaves Gallery (Gallery LG27)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Case furniture and boxes

In this high chest, elegance of line, richness of turning, and choice of wood have been combined with consummate skill. The rising moldings which crown the upper case complement the flatter, broader moldings at the top of the lower case and help to frame the four tiers of drawers. The drawers are of graduated sizes, with the upper divided in two, and three small drawers below. They are all veneered with maple burl, framed with a double band of walnut set in herringbone fashion. The drawers are framed with double-arched moldings, and are fitted with scalloped escutcheon plates and drop handles. The center of the case is cut with a deep arch with reverse curved sides, flanked by flattened ogee arches. The sides of the case are solid wood and are cut with ogee arches at the base. All the lower borders have an attached bead strip to emphasize the outline. The legs are cup-turned and reach extremely thin diameters at several points. The legs are pegged through the shaped flat stretchers into the flattened ball feet with deep pads.

The sides, structural members, and legs are maple, while the drawers, back and stretchers are pine. The keyhole escutcheons are original, as are one pull and its plate. The other pulls are copies. There is a small repair to the center of the front stretcher.


The introduction of the Baroque style coincided with the more widespread use of such cabinetmaking techniques as the dovetail joint, named for its angled shape. Small yet strong, dovetail joints allowed craftsmen to use thinner and lighter wood to create taller and more elegant storage furniture. Earlier mortise-and-tenon joints (formed by an interlocking tongue and groove) required thicker and stronger boards, resulting in weighty, horizontally oriented pieces. This chest highlights the possibilities offered by the dovetail joint: its large, visually heavy top section is actually a veneered, lightweight pine case (held together by dovetail joints), which seems to perch precariously on slim, turned legs.

Provenance

1926, published by Luke Vincent Lockwood as being in the collection of the collector Hollis French, Boston, Massachusetts; 1928, lent by Hollis French (collector), May 31, 1928; 1940, gift of Hollis French (Accession Date October 10, 1940)

Credit Line

Gift of Hollis French