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Chest over Drawers

1769
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Berks County (probably)
OH: 28 1/4"; OW: 51"; OD: 22 3/4"
Tulip poplar, iron, brass, and paint
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1972.2000.5
Appearance: Rectangular, lift-top chest with hinged lid opening to a well with till on left side; till has a full length secret drawer at bottom that is revealed by pulling the till front up; the case is dovetailed and has a mid-molding with three molded drawers below equipped with brass bail handles; shaped bracket feet are in plane with the case front and sides, not the base molding as is typically done; front and rear side bracket feet are of different design; front is painted with two heart-like motifs outlined in white, blue/black, and white flanking a rectangle with astragal ends with "17 SW 69" painted within and three tangential circles framing the keyhole above. Left and right edges of front of chest have one lobe of the heart motif starting at edge and looping inward. Side panels decorated with six-pointed star within a circle; background of side and front panels is mottled (putty-grained?) reddish-brown. Edge moldings on lid and applied mid-molding painted red. Drawer fronts painted mottled brown. Hardware includes wrought strap hinges on lid secured with rivets and screws, single Rococo brass pulls on drawers, and pierced open work brass escutcheon. Wrought iron crab lock and arrow-headed iron drop mounted on inside.

Construction: The single board front and two-board back are dovetailed to the single board sides. The three board case bottom is nailed from the underside to the case sides and back. The single board blanket chest bottom is set in dados in the sides and pegged to the front and back. Mitered medial moldings are nailed to the front and sides Drawer dividers are dovetailed to the front and the case bottom and backed by full depth boards that are pegged to the back, toe-nailed to the underside of the blanket chest bottom and nailed from the underside to the case bottom. Shaped rails are nailed from the underside to the front and sides of the case, and extend down to form bracket feet. The bracket feet are dovetailed to each other at the front corners, and in the back are supported by corner braces that are inset and nailed to the feet, and mitered and nailed to the underside of the case bottom. The base molding is nailed to the bottom and the rail below it.

The two board lid is attached with wrought-iron strap hinges that are riveted and screwed to the underside of the top and outside of the back. The lid’s shaped molding is tongue and groove joined to the edges of the front and sides and to each other at the corners. The grab lock is riveted to the inside of the front and the catch is riveted to the underside of the lid.

On the inside of the blanket chest, the bottom of the till and the bottom of the “hidden” compartment are set in dados in the case front and back. The till lid rotates on integral pegs that are set in holes in the case front and back. The front of the till extends down to cover the “secret” compartment and slides up in dados in the case front and back. The drawer inside the compartment is of dovetail construction with the bottom nailed to the edges of the front, sides and back. Two drawer dividers are set in dados in the drawer’s front and back.

The drawer sides are dovetailed to the backs. The sides and bottoms are nailed into rabbets in the over-lapping drawer fronts. The bottoms are nailed from the underside to the sides and backs.
Label:Painted chests, with or without drawers, were commonly found in the homes of Germanic settlers and their descendants in America. Often these chests were painted with motifs symbolic of love, marriage, life, and religion. Dated 1769, this chest may have commemorated an important event such as a birth or marriage of the owner whose initials "S W" also ornament the chest's façade. The hearts that adorn the chests typically represent spiritual (God's love) rather than earthly love, while the three lobed motif around the keyhole symbolizes the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in Christian faiths.
Provenance:Thomas W. C. Miller, Mendham, N. J.
Inscription(s):"17 SW 69" is painted within a panel having astragal ends on the front of the chest.

“A.C. Blair” inscribed in pencil, on the underside of the lid, front edge.