Origin: America, North Carolina, Davie Co. or Yadkin Co.
OH: 26"; OW: 43 3/8"; OD: 15 3/8".
Acc. No. 1958-488
Appearance: Six-board chest with attached frame; cove molded lid; complex base molding; heavily shaped front and side skirts; short, exaggerated cabriole front legs on pointed pad feet; tapered rear legs.
Construction: The moldings are flush-nailed to the single-board lid, which in turn is snipe-hinged to the backboard. In addition to being nailed in place, the lower hasps of the hinges are sharpened, bent to a ninety-degree angle, driven through the case, and peened over. The side panels are half-blind-dovetailed to the front panel, and similar joinery secures the backboard to the rear edges of the side panels. The bottom board is flush-nailed to the bottom of the chest, and the joint is concealed by moldings flush-nailed to the tops of the rails on the frame. The frame rails are tenoned into the legs and secured with pins. The weight of the case rests on the tops of the legs and on a medial rail that is dovetailed into the front and rear rails. Four wrought nails driven through the bottom board of the chest penetrate the medial rail and are peened over, permanently locking the chest to the frame.
Materials: Cherry lid, front, sides, front rail, side rails, legs, moldings, and joint pins; yellow pine back, bottom, rear rail, and medial rail.
Label:This cherry and yellow pine chest represents a large group of similarly conceived chests, chests of drawers, and tables produced in Piedmont North Carolina from the late eighteenth century until about 1830. The products of several different shops working in a locally popular style, the objects originated in or near the counties of Randolph and Rowan (the latter subsequently divided into Davidson, Davie, and Rowan Counties), where most have been found. Executed in native woods such as black walnut, cherry, and yellow pine, the case pieces are readily recognized by their distinctive appearance. All stand on frames with deep, heavily shaped skirts and short squared cabriole front legs. Some repeat the cabriole leg at the back, while others, including the present example, feature sharply tapered, angular rear legs. A few pieces are decorated with color-contrasted stringing and comma-shaped light wood inlays.
The overall forms and many of the design details seen in these objects can be directly tied to cultural influences present in the Piedmont as early as the 1750s. During the late colonial and early national periods, central North Carolina was a culturally diverse place with a steadily growing population drawn from a variety of locations in America and Europe. However, as Michael Lewis has observed, the artisan community in the Randolph-Rowan vicinity was neatly subdivided into two distinct ethnic clusters: Quakers, many of whom were Irish immigrants and former residents of Pennsylvania, and New Light Baptists from the Connecticut River valley and other parts of inland New England. Cabinetmaking traditions from these groups and their European forebears may be discerned in the region's furniture.
Evidence of Pennsylvania furniture design is evident in the trifid and pointed spade feet that appear on a number of case pieces (CWF acc. 2001-803). Both designs are also common to Irish furniture, as are the busily shaped skirts on some of the objects. The use of the simple chest form on a cabriole-legged stand was long popular in Ireland as well. At the same time, the short, exuberantly shaped cabriole legs found on furniture in the North Carolina group closely resemble designs from the lower Connecticut River valley, although turned pad feet were more common than trifid or spade feet on the New England versions. The placement of large case pieces on stands or frames with short cabriole legs was also quite popular in the Connecticut River valley. The closest parallels appear on New England chests of drawers that also have four or five drawer ranks, similarly shaped skirts, and sometimes scalloped tops.
Although it is not possible to assign particular makers to most of the objects in the Randolph-Rowan assemblages, variations in construction, skirt shape, and leg and foot detailing make the identification of individual shop groups possible. For instance, field research by MESDA has recorded a black walnut chest (MESDA research file 15,433) and a cherry chest of drawers with legs and frame skirts that closely parallel those on the CWF chest. The three appear to be products of the same shop, which probably was located near the border between Davie and Yadkin Counties.
Provenance:The chest was purchased from New York antiques dealer John Walton in 1958. According to a 1953 publication on southern furniture, it was found in Rocky Mount, Va. Rocky Mount is located approximately 75 miles north-northeast of the Davie-Yadkin Co., N. C., line.