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A FEDERAL GRAIN-PAINTED "MATTESON" PINE BLANKET CHEST
A FEDERAL GRAIN-PAINTED "MATTESON" PINE BLANKET CHEST

SOUTH SHAFTSBURY, VERMONT, 1820-1825

Details
A FEDERAL GRAIN-PAINTED "MATTESON" PINE BLANKET CHEST
SOUTH SHAFTSBURY, VERMONT, 1820-1825
36 in. high, 40¾ in. wide, 18 in. deep
Provenance
Sold, Sotheby's, New York, 27 June 1991, lot 302
Leigh Keno, New York

Lot Essay

Vibrantly painted in a decorative manner, this chest represents the early nineteenth-century rural Vermont 'high style'. The surface painting is inspired by the fine grained mahogany, satinwood, flame birch, tiger maple, and bird's-eye maple veneers seen on fashionable federal furniture. The artist here skillfully employed paint to enliven the surface of a plain chest in an attempt to duplicate expensive urban furniture. Much of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century furniture was painted, and very often, as here, with a faux finish that was intended to emulate more expensive grains of wood. A group of Shaftsbury, Vermont chests with identical construction and the distinctive painting in mustard, green, red, and brown grounds, as seen here, have become associated with Thomas Matteson as a result of Caroline Hebb's September 1973 The Magazine Antiques article examining the physical attributes of the chests, the two 'Thomas Matteson' inscriptions and 1824 dates, and also an examination of the genealogy of the extensive Matteson family. Due to a lack of any evidence that any one of the six contemporary Thomas Mattesons of Shaftsbury was a cabinetmaker or joiner, the most recent research, while reaffirming the coherence of the Matteson group, suggests that these inscriptions may indicate ownership rather than a maker (Cynthia van Allen Schaffner, "Matteson Group Chests," Encyclopedia of American Folk Art, (New York, 2004), pp. 307-308). Another chest in the group is located in The Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vermont, and at least four other chests are known to be in private collections. Three of the pieces in the group are also illustrated in Dean A. Fales's American Painted Furniture 1660-1880 (New York, 1972), p. 221.

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