Chippendale Carved Walnut High Chest of Drawers
A statement of early rococo aesthetics by an unknown Philadelphia cabinet shop, this dressing table relates to a high chest at Colonial Williamsburg signed by Henry Cliffton and Thomas Carteret and dated 1753.1Sack 1988, 1125. The carving of the legs, shell, and the flower at the center of the shell drawer have also been ascribed to the same shop that carved another high chest in the Department of State’s collection (see Acc. No. 67.17), as well as the Marshall high chest (collection of E.G. Nicholson of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire), on which the restoration of the applied vine carving on this dressing table was based.2This attribution was suggested orally to the author by Alan Miller and Luke Beckerdite. Miller restored the applied carving in 1989. Two cusps of the skirt have broken off, and the applied vine carvings on the shell drawer have been replaced. A third early high chest with a similarly shaped skirt and reticulated brass hardware is in the Henry Ford Museum.3The high chest, formerly in the collection of Marsden J. Perry of Providence, is illustrated in Campbell, 2.
An unusual feature of this dressing table is its quarter columns turned from a single piece of wood; more common are separately mounted bases and capitals, which required less time to execute. Also distinctive are the pronounced spurs on the ankles of the ball and claw feet, a detail that is also found on an early high chest in the Baltimore Museum of Art, variously attributed to Maryland and to Philadelphia.4The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Luck Beckerdite and Alan Miller, who brought these features and related examples to his attention.
Thomas S. Michie
Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.