With its swan's neck pediment, urn and flame finials, fan-carved central drawer flanked by drawers paralleling the shape of the cornice, fluted pilasters, and shaped lower case, this chest-on-chest follows a classic eastern Massachusetts chest-on-chest design although it exhibits a bombé lower case rather than the more commonly found block-front treatment. While its ogee feet, horizontal graining, shaped skirt pendant, and rear foot brackets are typical of Boston work, this chest displays characteristics associated with the craft traditions of the North Shore and was probably commissioned there from a local maker. The maker utilized bombé construction techniques dating to the middle to later period of the development of the bombé form. These include the inner surfaces of the lower case sides that are planed in a continuous curve that parallels the outer case side surfaces with drawer sides of conforming shape. The refinement of design and craftsmanship attest to the extensive craft background, excellent bench skills and thorough knowledge of materials of this chest's maker, who was undoubtedly one of the finest artisans working in the area.
Only seven bombé chest-on-chests are known today.1 Four examples relate closely to the currently offered example. One is in the collection of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation while its near mate resides in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art once in the celebrated Lansdell K. Christie collection.2 Another example, that descended in the Hooper family of Marblehead, was sold at Skinner Inc. on November 1, 2003. The last known example was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2009 for the World Record price of $1,762,500.3 It was originally made for the Salem merchant Edward Allen (1735-1803).
1 One made by John Cogswell of Boston in 1782 is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Walter Muir Whitehill, Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, Boston, 1974, fig. 125. Leigh Keno, Inc. sold a nearly identical example attributed to John Cogswell to a private collector.
2 Barry Greenlaw, New England Furniture at Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, 1974, no. 81. Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., The Lansdell K. Christie Collection of Notable American Furniture, October 21, 1972, lot 63
3 Sotheby’s, New York, January 24, 2009, lot 174.
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