Perhaps the most ubiquitous form of Pennsylvania German furniture, the lift-top chest prevailed in Southeastern Pennsylvania long after it became outmoded in the homeland and remained very different from the furniture produced by cabinetmakers of English heritage. These chests have been the subject of much scholarship, but of the large group of known examples only an handful of makers have been identified.
This chest is signed and dated by Johannes Ranck, who belonged to the best known school of decorators. Working in Jonestown, Dauphin (now Lebanon) County and primarily made up of the Seltzer and Ranck families, this school of decorating flourished from the 1770s to the 1820s. A characteristic of this school and exhibited on this example is the free-hand tulip decoration with sgrafitto signed flower pots.
Dated 1787, this is one of the earliest known examples of Ranck's work.
For a further discussion of the Ranck and Seltzer decorators see Monroe H. Fabian, The Pennsylvania-German Decorated Chest, New York, 1978.