Home page

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
A WILLIAM AND MARY MAHOGANY AND MAPLE DRESSING TABLE
PROPERTY FROM A NEW ENGLAND FAMILY COLLECTION
A WILLIAM AND MARY MAHOGANY AND MAPLE DRESSING TABLE

PHILADELPHIA, 1700-1730

Details
A WILLIAM AND MARY MAHOGANY AND MAPLE DRESSING TABLE
PHILADELPHIA, 1700-1730
28 in. high, 32 1/4 in. wide, 20 3/4 in. deep
Provenance
Edward Corydon Wheeler, Jr. (1877-1954), Boston and "Glen Acres," Weston, Massachusetts
Literature
Wallace Nutting, Furniture of the Pilgrim Century 1620-1720 (New York, 1921), p. 427.
Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, vols. I and II (New York, 1928), no. 394.
Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, 1988), p. 204, fn. 2 (referenced).

Brought to you by

Abby Starliper
Abby Starliper

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

Condition Report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Highly elaborate and almost frenetically energized, the stretchers on this dressing table make it one of the most exciting Baroque furniture forms to survive from early America. The same unusual stretcher design is seen on two other dressing tables in the collections of the Chipstone Foundation (fig. 1) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (fig. 2) and despite differences between the three forms, all were most likely made in the same shop. As described by Alan Miller, the arcs on the stretchers have uneven widths, a design that he notes “[creates] a sense of tension and momentum” and makes the negative spaces “more charged and taut” (Alan Miller, “Flux in Design and Method in Early Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia Furniture,” American Furniture 2014, Luke Beckerdite, ed. (Milwaukee, 2014), p. 40). Like the Chipstone example, the dressing table offered here is made of mahogany with turnings made from a local wood; here, the legs and feet are made of maple whereas the feet of the Chipstone example are made of red cedar. Such variation in primary woods may have been a cost-saving practice or indicate that the maker did not have mahogany boards of sufficient width on hand for the turned components. The use of mahogany during the first quarter of the eighteenth century in Pennsylvania is rare, but in addition to surviving forms, its presence is documented in cabinetmakers’ inventories dating soon after 1700 (Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, 1988), p. 295; Ward cites Cathryn J. McElroy, “Furniture in Philadelphia: The First Fifty Years,” American Furniture and Its Makers: Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 13 (Chicago, 1979), p. 72). Another contemporaneous dressing table shows a similar combination of mahogany and cherrywood, which like maple and red cedar, could have been readily treated to obscure any color differences with the mahogany case and stretchers (Jack L. Lindsey, Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania 1680-1758 (Philadelphia, 1999), pp. 144-145, no. 51). The same dressing table features leg turnings closely related to those on the form offered here and contrast with those seen on the tables in figs. 1 and 2, both of which feature a severe undercut between the inverted cups and tapering columnar turnings.

This dressing table varies from all the above cited with its single long drawer, a rare feature that may indicate an early date of production. The same format appears on dressing tables with box or H-stretchers dated closer to 1700, but the vast majority of surviving American dressing tables with cross stretchers are fitted with three small drawers (for examples with box or H-stretchers, see Lindsey, p. 144, nos. 48-49). Only two other Pennsylvania examples of the form with single drawers have been found. Dated 1710-1730 and 1700-1730, these comprise tables at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Art Gallery respectively. Because of the single-drawer format, these tables and that offered here feature atypical skirt designs and differ from the tripartite designs that echo the drawer divisions on forms with three short drawers. On the MMA table, the skirt is a single, flattened arch, while the Yale table and the table offered here feature bipartite designs (Frances Gruber Safford, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Early Colonial Period (New Haven, 2007), pp. 339-341, cat. 131; Ward, pp. 203-204, cat. 98; for other dressing tables with single drawers and cross stretchers but of unknown origins, see Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, vols. I and II (New York, 1928), nos. 388, 396). The table offered here also displays nail holes and a distinct shadow indicating that it was previously and most likely originally fitted with an applied molding running below the drawer and continuing on the case sides. Another possible indicator of an early date of production, this detail appears on desk forms, including a mahogany example dated as early as 1705 (Lindsey, pp. 118, 147, no. 68, fig. 186).

As cited by Nutting, this dressing table was owned in the early twentieth century by Edward Corydon Wheeler, Jr. (1877-1954), a stock broker and antiques dealer living in Boston and later Weston, Massachusetts. The son of Edward Corydon Wheeler, Sr. (1845-1922), a successful manufacturer of garments and buttons, and Clara Bell Huntoon (1852-1932), the younger Edward graduated from Harvard and married Mary B. Adams in 1909. After her death, he married in 1921 Anne Swann Hubbard (b. 1896), whose father Charles Wells Hubbard owned a large estate in Weston, Massachusetts. In the early 1920s, the couple purchased an eighteenth-century Georgian house from Israel Sack, moved it from Newmarket, New Hampshire to its present site at 100 Orchard Street in Weston and re-named their new home, "Glen Acres." This dressing table stood in this house or the couple’s Boston residence at 54 Chestnut Street alongside other treasures from his personal collection. These included a number of other William and Mary pieces such as a painted New England chest and three Rhode Island forms also with vigorous turnings (Albert Gallatin Wheeler, The Genealogical and Encyclopedic History of the Wheeler Family in America (Boston, 1914), p. 614; http://www.weston.org/787/Orchard-Avenue-Area-Historical-Narrative, accessed 9 December 2015; “Engagements,” The New York Times, 7 April 1921, available online; the painted New England chest is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, acc. no. 63.1049; for the Rhode Island forms, see the Rhode Island Furniture Archive at the Yale University Art Gallery, RIF4014, RIF4015 and RIF4167).

More from American Furniture, Folk Art and Silver

View All
View All