Bearing distinctive and elaborate carved shells, this high chest belongs to a group of similarly embellished case furniture attributed to the renowned cabinetmaker, Benjamin Frothingham, Jr. (1734-1809) of Charlestown. The attribution is based upon a chest-on-chest bearing the label of Frothingham engraved by Nathaniel Hurd and illustrated in Antiques (November 1952), p. 386. Generally, the shells are comprised of an inner scalloped shell enclosed by alternating notched and striated-incised ridges footed by a band of high-relief leaf carving, all recessed within an arch with punched ground.
While all the known examples display minor variations, this high chest's shell appears identical to that on one of the dressing tables, suggesting that the two may have been made en suite (see Sotheby's New York, The Collection of Doris and Richard M. Seidlitz, 30 January 1988, lot 1771). Both the shell on the dressing table and those on the high chest offered here have their notched ridges terminating with incised circles that are flush with the edge of the recessed arch. All the other examples in the group have ridges that curl inward before reaching the edge of the recessed arch. In addition to the similarity between the shells, the high chest and dressing table are both of walnut, feature drawers with cockbeaded surrounds, skirts with central blocked recess, and share identical designs for their skirts, legs and feet.
In the 1975 Antiques article listed above, a caption next to the illustration of the high chest referred to a matching dressing table in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum; as no such example is recorded there, the reference may be to the dressing table discussed above. Also, the same article mentions that both items descended in the Hancock family of Boston.
For a further discussion on this group of shell-carved furniture, see lot 902.