Emblazoned with distinctive circular, crescent and squiggle-line painted motifs, this cupboard is part of a small group of early eighteenth-century furniture from the Hampton area in New Hampshire. Comprising cupboards, chests with one drawer and bible boxes, the group illustrates a rural community's penchant for conservative forms and regionally expressive paintwork. Similar preferences are evident in the surviving furniture from other New England localities of the same era, such as Taunton, Massachusetts and coastal Connecticut. While squiggled lines feature prominently in all the pieces in the Hampton group, different overall schemes and methods in the painted ornament indicate the work of at least two decorators. Contrasting with the free-hand scrolls and trees seen on several of the pieces (fig. 2), the geometric crescent stencilling on this cupboard is virtually identical to clusters on a bible box (see Fraser, cited above, fig. 5).
Illustrating four examples including the cupboard offered here, Esther Stevens Fraser identified the group in 1930 and introduced Samuel Lane (1698-1776) and members of the Moulton family as possible makers and owners. Fraser's attribution was based upon a chest with one drawer dated 1719 and signed by Samuel Lane, a house carpenter and joiner of Hampton Falls. Fraser also uncovered a Hampton Falls association with the cupboard now at Yale (fig. 2) bearing the initials "SR" and signature, "Sarah Rowell." The inscriptions probably refer to Sarah Rowell (b. 1722) who married Benjamin Moulton (b. 1721) of Hampton Falls in 1742. In addition, Fraser postulated that the "JM" on a bible box from this group referred to John Moulton (1669-1740), a house carpenter of the same town. John's son, Abraham (1694-1757) may be the individual of the same name who bought a tract of land from Samuel Lane in 1730. Suggesting a network of craftsmen linked by trade and familial ties, further genealogical research reveals that Lane was related by marriage to the Moultons. His wife, Elizabeth Blake (b. 1701), was a first-cousin of Benjamin and his brother, John (b.1685) was brother-in-law to Abraham.
For other examples of this group, see Fraser, cited above, pp. 312-316; Little, Little By Little: Six Decades of Collecting American Decorative Arts (New York, 1984), p. 197; Ward, American Case Furniture (New Haven, 1988), pp. 387-399 (fig. 2 above); Randall, American Furniture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, 1965), no. 55 (fig. 1 above); Fales, American Painted Furniture, 1660-1880 (New York, 1972), p. 45; Norman-Wilcox, entry, "Country Furniture: A Symposium," Antiques (March 1968), p. 361; Decorative Arts Photographic Collection, Winterthur Library, no. 65.4226).