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Card table

1805-1815
Origin: America, South Carolina, Charleston
OH: 29 1/4" OW: 34 3/4" OD: 16 3/4"
Mahogany, white pine, ash, satinwood, and probably maple.
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1995-83
Appearance: D-shaped card table with four turned and tapered legs; each leg pilaster ornamented with an inlaid satinwood lozenge; central section of front rail with raised satinwood tablet defined by patterned stringing and centering an inlaid oval of mahogany; remaining sections of front rail veneered in figured mahogany and trimmed with rectangular panels of three-part stringing.

Construction: Both leaves are of solid, single-board construction, and the lower leaf features a single central leaf-edge tenon on its rear face. The triple-laminated front rail is dovetailed to the inner rear rail and a medial rail is half-dovetailed to each. The central fixed hinge rail is separated from the inner rear rail by a thin spacer block and the assembly is secured with glue and four screws set from the inside. The two swing hinge rails rotate on knuckle joints and are tenoned into the rear legs, which overlap the ends of the front rail when closed. The front legs are fixed to the front rail with bridle joints.

Materials: Mahogany top, legs, and front rail veneers; white pine front rail laminates, inner rear rail, and medial rail; ash fixed hinge rail, swing hinge rails, and rear rail spacer block; some satinwood inlays; probably maple remaining inlays.
Label:The cosmopolitan nature of early national Charleston is clearly reflected in the design sources that shaped this straightforward but visually arresting card table. For instance, the form of the turned leg can be traced to cabinetmaking traditions from coastal Massachusetts. While the shaft section of the leg is generic in nature, both the drumlike capital and the elongated bulbous foot are rare in America except in Boston and Salem, where both were popular. These design details and many others arrived in Charleston by way of America's coastwise trade, which grew dramatically after the Revolution. As cash crops were shipped out from southern ports, northern manufactured goods, including furniture, came back in growing quantities. The increasing presence of these wares in the coastal South and the expanding numbers of migrating northern artisans are directly responsible for the appearance of Massachusetts Bay detailing on Low Country furniture.

On the other hand, the D-shaped top of this table is an indication of Charleston's concurrent and long-standing affinity for British cabinetmaking traditions. Considered fashionable in the Low Country, card table tops of this form were a standard option in most British cabinet shops and appeared in several contemporary English design manuals. That the pattern was not introduced to Charleston from the North is strongly suggested because D-shaped card tables are extremely rare elsewhere in America. A study of more than 370 neoclassical card tables from New England and the Middle Atlantic states (including Maryland), found that the D-shaped top occurred on less than 2% of them. The continuing arrival of British cabinetmakers and even British furniture in South Carolina long after the Revolution accounts for the popularity of the D-shaped table in Charleston.

The restrained and carefully composed inlays on this table probably represent a Scottish influence brought by the large numbers of Scottish cabinetmakers that immigrated to Charleston. The relatively large and highly figured geometric shapes set into veneer panels of sharply contrasting color are often seen on contemporary Scottish furniture. The oval and the lozenge were particular favorites in Charleston, appearing on a number of tables, sideboards, and other forms made in several of the city's cabinet shops from the end of the eighteenth century until about 1820.

Although the maker of this table has not been identified, a group of objects can be attributed to him through construction and design relationships. Most closely associated is a pair of card tables whose dimensions, structural components, and ornament are almost identical to those of the CWF table (MESDA research file 8761). Long owned by a Charleston family, the pair differs only in the addition of reeding to the leg shafts and leaf edges. Almost certainly by the same hand is a group of four closely related Charleston sideboards, one of which features reeded front legs identical in pattern to the ones on the above referenced table, while its unreeded rear legs match those on the CWF table. Oval and lozenge inlays on the sideboard's center drawer and leg pilasters also mimic the ornament on the tables. The other sideboards in the group stand on legs of different patterns, but their intricately shaped carcasses are all the same and their ornament is similarly conceived. One of these sideboards, originally owned by planter William Alston (1756-1839), also exhibits panels of highly refined floral inlay and a British-inspired gallery of turned, painted, and gilded wood (Garvan Collection, Yale University). A comparable gallery survives on another example in the group. Together, these objects illustrate not only the multiple design influences at work in post-colonial Charleston but the impressive capabilities of the city's cabinetmaking community.
Provenance:The table was acquired by Estate Antiques in 1995 from an unidentified source in the northeastern U.S. It was marketed jointly to CWF by Estate Antiques and Sumpter Priddy III later the same year.
Mark(s):None.
Inscription(s):Remnants of an early twentieth-century gummed label, now illegible, are adhered to the inside of the front rail.