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Chest of Drawers

Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
OH: 37 1/4"; OW: 43"; OD: 26 1/2"
Mahogany, yellow poplar, yellow pine
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1930-209
Appearance: Chest of drawers with rectangular top and serpentine front; molded edge; front corners set out at 45 degree angle; correspond with built-out fluted corners and feet below. Sides of chest straight except at front, where stiles laminated to front ends curve outwards to meet edge of fluted corners. Four drawers, serpentine and graduated in size, each with (replaced) cast brass bail handles with oval back plates and central oval escutcheon plates over keyholes. Cock-beaded edge applied to drawer fronts and sides. Molded base with ogee feet conform in outline with top.

The serpentine mahogany top front rail is backed by and glued to a yellow pine rail that is half-blind dovetailed to the top of the sides. A yellow pine rail at the back is also dovetailed to the top of the sides. The mahogany top, with integral molded front and side edges, is screwed to the front and back rails from below. Four 4” rectangular blocks, two glued to each side, are immediately below the top between the front and back rails (three now missing, one extant on the proper left side). The front facing edge of the sides are cut at an angle and rabbeted, with a full length coved mahogany board glued into the rabbet with the coved edge butt joined to the sides and the front facing edge matching the angle of the side. A top to bottom vertical fluted panel is glued and pegged to the front edge of the butt joined side and panel, forming a corner post.

The serpentine mahogany drawer blades are backed and glued to yellow pine rails which are in turn lap joined to full depth, thinner tulip poplar dustboards. The blades, rails and dustboards are set in dados in the sides, with dados adjusted so that the tops of the drawer blades and dustboards are level, undersides not level.

The tulip poplar bottom is faced with a serpentine mahogany rail and half-blind dovetailed to the sides. Boards are nailed to the underside of the bottom at the front and side edges and the back at the ends. In the front the board is yellow pine faced with mahogany matching the serpentine of the bottom, and edged with an integral molding. On the proper right (PR) side, the board is yellow pine faced with a mahogany molding matching the front molding. On the PL side, the board is mahogany with integral molding matching the front molding. Weight supporting vertical blocks are glued to the edge boards in each corner and are further supported with rectangular glue blocks (shaped when supporting flankers). Front feet vertical blocks are trapezoidal rather than rectangular and have an extra horizontal block across its inner face. Ogee bracket feet are glued to the corner posts and support blocks. Integral flankers are nailed to the edge boards. Rear facing triangular brackets are glued to the corner blocks and glue blocks. Replaced foot pads (3/8” thick) under each of the feet are nailed from the underside with modern nails.

The back is comprised of two tulip poplar boards nailed into rabbets in the sides and to the edge of the bottom and joined with pocket screws to the upper rear rail.
The drawers are of dovetail construction with solid serpentine mahogany fronts with cock beading nailed to the edges. Drawer bottoms are chamfered to fit into dados in the fronts and sides and nailed from the underside to the edge of the backs. A series of tulip poplar (and replaced yellow pine) rectangular blocks are glued to the underside of the bottoms along the front and side edges. The blocks along the sides are modern except for those on the bottom drawer which are original. Rectangular stop blocks (not original) are nailed with modern nails to the rear edges of the sides of all drawers. Sides, backs and bottoms are tulip poplar.

Brass drawer pulls are replaced, and pockets for earlier pull hardware indicate a more central placement.
Label:Craftsmen throughout America produced rococo-style serpentine front chests from the 1750s through the 1780s. A rococo chest with massive ogee bracket feet could be decorated with fluted pilasters on its canted corners, as on this Philadelphia example, or with foliate carving. An illustration of a "Commode Cloths Press" with a serpentine base and carved canted corners appeared in Chippendale's 1762 Director. With the introduction of the early classical style around 1790, the serpentine front form continued with contrasting veneers and inlay.
Mark(s):None found.
Inscription(s):Chalk tally marks on the underside of one drawer. Modern chalk numeral on the underside of bottom board.