Still working today, the Dunlap family has created some of the most impressive pieces of New Hampshire furniture over the centuries. With its deeply molded top, drawer surrounds and "peacock" carved fan, this tall chest-of-drawers is a rare eighteenth century example of the work of New Hampshire's foremost cabinetmaking school.
Remaining unstudied and misattributed well into the 1940s, the Dunlap School included work by the most prolific furniture makers in the family, Major John Dunlap and his brother, Lieutenant Samuel Dunlap.
As evident from the depiction of a peacock in John Dunlap's cyphering journal, John and Samuel Dunlap occasionally enhanced their works with a carved and abstracted "peacock" carving (see figure 1). A documented example by Samuel Dunlap, depicts a broad fan with beautifully shaped overlapping "feathers," that stem from a circular motif with similar "feathers," figure 2 (see Charles Parson, The Dunlaps and their Furniture (New Hampshire, 1970), fig. 20).
Not isolated to the Dunlap shops, this motif appeared on case forms made by other New Hampshire shops. Similar carving appears on documented furniture made by Moses Hazen, Jr. (1776-1837), also of New Hampshire. The carving is executed somewhat differently than the example shown above, evident in the angle of the "feathers," the distance between them, the secondary fan from which they stem and the lower "tail" on Hazen examples.
For further information on the Dunlap family and their furniture, see Parsons, op cit., and Philip Zea, The Dunlap Cabinetmakers: A Tradition in Craftsmanship (Mechanicsburg, PA, 1994).