Displaying a well-proportioned blocked serpentine facade, rich mahogany grain and original chinoiserie brasses, this chest-of-drawers illustrates the restrained elegance of late eighteenth century Boston furniture. With a top sliding on the dovetailed ends of the case sides, a large dovetail joining the base molding to the case bottom and white pine secondary woods, the chest bears hallmarks of Boston construction. However, the base molding dovetail is unusually large--it spans almost the entire width of the base molding and the key coincides with the continuous blocking on the sides of drawer facades, base molding and legs. There are several related chests that, aside from the brasses, appear to be of the same design and proportions (Richard H. Randall, Jr., American Furniture in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (Boston, 1965), cat. 29; Israel Sack, Inc., American Antiques from Israel Sack, Inc., vol. 5, pp. 1370-1; Skinner, March 22-23, 1997, lot 102).
The chest is distinguished by its chinoiserie brasses which retain portions of their original fire-gilt surface. Such elaborate brasses were among the most expensive models available. Imported from England and retailed by merchants, brasses of this design appear to have been used in America only by Boston cabinetmakers. Four other casepieces, all high-style Boston-made forms, survive with original brasses of the same design (fig. 1; Robert Mussey and Anne Rogers Haley, "John Cogswell and Boston Bombe Furniture: Thirty-Five Years of Revolution in Politics and Design," American Furniture 1994, Luke Beckerdite, ed. (Milwaukee, WI, 1994), figs. 9, 24; Jonathan L. Fairbanks et al., Collecting American Decorative Arts and Sculpture, 1971-1991 (Boston, 1991), cat. 7, p. 34).
According to Albert Sack, the chest was purchased from the Sumner Weld family of Marblehead in 1965. Among the possessions of the same family were two chairs from the renowned set made for the Fayerweather-Bromfield family of Boston, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Historic Deerfield and the Brooklyn Museum (Dean A. Fales, Jr., The Furniture of Historic Deerfield (New York, 1976), p. 47, no. 80; Paul Revere's Boston: 1735-1818 (Boston, 1975), p. 89, no. 104); Sack, vol. 2, p. 433, P1078). Though the chairs and the chest could have hailed from different ancestral branches of the family, it is possible that they followed a similar line of descent. While Sumner Weld has not been identified, he may have been related to the Bromfield family through Frances Weld, the last family member to own the Deerfield pair of chairs. Another tie linking the Weld and Bromfield families is Daniel Dennison Slade, the great-grandson of Henry and Margaret Bromfield. He was sent at age ten to live with and study under Stephen Minot Weld (1806-1867) of Jamaica Plain. Weld's brother, Thomas Swan Weld (1810-1848) married Sarah Fitch Sumner (b. 1819) and as many children were given their mother's maiden name, their descendants may have included Sumner Weld (Curatorial files, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Charles R. Eastman, "Daniel Denison Slade," New-England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 51 (January 1897), pp. 9-18).