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Chest of drawers

unknown American, PA, Western (American)

c. 1800

Medium walnut, cherry, poplar, and chestnut with inlay of aspen or cottonwood, walnut, and poplar, and brass Measurements H: 51 1/4 x W: 40 3/4 x D: 21 in. (130.17 x 103.5 x 53.3 cm) Credit Elizabeth A. Drain Fund and Berdan Memorial Trust Fund Accession Number 2007.58 Location Not on View


With geometric lines, graduated drawers, and flared “French” feet, this chest, along with another in the museum's collection (81.10.29, c. 1810),  was inspired by designs originally published in Neoclassical pattern books like George Hepplewhite’s Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide (1790). This chest’s intelligent design includes a hidden locking system for the two top drawers, which was disengaged by accessing the long drawer beneath. The chest exhibits a combination of refined techniques, including the exuberant splaying of vine-and-leaf inlay, particularly on the drawer fronts. While dozens of early Neoclassical objects from the greater Ohio River Valley like this chest have surfaced, few can be linked to a specific cabinetmaker or to past owners. With its original lacquered brass handles and painstakingly conserved waxed surface, this chest provides invaluable evidence of decorative treatments applied to furniture in early Western Pennsylvania.