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Painted Cupboard

ca. 1830
Origin: America, Ohio (probably)
OH: 93 1/4"; OW: 79 3/4": OD: 21 1/2"
Tulip poplar; black walnut, oak, iron, brass, glass, and paint
Museum Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Murdoch
Acc. No. 1975.2000.1
DESCRIPTION: Two piece cupboard joined at waist; Upper section: two sliding doors flanked on each side by a vertical row of 3 panes of black reverse-painted glass, with floral motifs painted between, above a candle drawer painted with a floral motif; applied placque carved with an eagle holding a banner in its beak reading "EPLURIBUS UNUM" in center above doors; painted floral decoration with hearts flanking eagle placque; stepped molding cornice. Lower section: stepped and molded waist molding; 2 paneled doors painted in center with tulips flanking a central small drawer above floral motif; four straight bracket feet along front of cupboard.
CONSTRUCTION: simple plank construction with face areas of cupboard pegged on; cut sprig nails used for tacking on moldings; waist and cornice moldings on left side show that a mistake was made in the original planning of the construction and the cutting of the materials: the moldings here are pieced out by a five inch section and retain paint and degree of wear homogeneous with the rest of the cupboard; the carcass of the upper section is 7/8" wider than the lower section; the spring locks on the lower doors, pulls on the three drawers, the lock on the right sliding door, and the butt-type hinges appear to be original; there is an original metal latch on the left sliding door on the inside preventing movement of the door when secured; the central sculptural eagle element is a separately carved panel held in place by nailed on moldings; the sliding doors are walnut; there is one oak shelf in the lower section; the cupboard has straight bracket feet with an unusual central "bootjack" shaped foot.
DECORATION: Upper section: mustard yellow ground; dark red sliding doors; inside backboards showing behind shelves are alternately unpainted and painted orange; large fraktur-like bird and floral motifs to left and right are also painted in red and dark green; small floral spring motifs between reverse-painted panes are also red and green; moldings around eagle relief panel are red; background of panel is dark green; eagle is gilt entirely but worn showing dark green ground; lettering and floral banner is in gilt and red; drawer fronts are orange-red ground with black and dark green floral sprigs on drawer faces; upper cornice is dark green. Bottom section: mustard yellow ground; borders of raised panels in doors are blue; waist molding is dark blue; foot areas dark green; face of central drawer also appears to be same green although very much more worn; floral units on center of doors and in center of bottom section are painted in green and red.
Label:The sheer size of this “dresser,” as the form was then known, makes it an impressive example of American painted furniture. The massive cornice moldings, reverse-painted glass side lights, rolling glazed doors, stenciled and freehand-painted designs, carved and painted plaque, and probable Ohio origin also make this cupboard particularly noteworthy.

The yellow, Prussian blue, and red-orange colors as well as the Fraktur-like designs, compound moldings, triple-pinned tenons in the paneled doors, and the scale of the case reveal the cabinetmaker's Germanic heritage. An unusual decorative feature is the painted plaque below the cornice depicting a relief-carved eagle and the inscription "EPLURIBUS UNUM." Although the eagle's form and pose were presumably derived from the national symbol, this eagle grasps a pitcher and a decanter instead of arrows and an olive branch. This combination of patriotic and domestic imagery, along with the cupboard’s size, suggest it may have been used in a public building such as a tavern.
Provenance:Possibly Philip and Magdalena Culp (Kolb), Richland County, Ohio; unidentified Butler, Ohio, owner; Mary Sonners (or Sommers), Delaware, Ohio; Garth Oberlander, Delaware, Ohio; Garth's Auction Barn, Inc., Delaware, Ohio; Maze Pottinger Antiques, Birmingham, Mich.; partial gift of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Murdoch, Brielle, N. J.
Inscription(s):"EPLURIBUS UNUM" is painted above the carved eagle on the plaque below the cornice.