High chest of drawers

c. 1735–1757
Walnut, maple, pine, and brass
86 × 40 × 23 in. (2 m 18.44 cm × 101.6 cm × 58.42 cm) Top section: 51 × 39 1/2 × 21 1/2 in. (129.54 × 100.33 × 54.61 cm) Bottom section: 36 × 40 × 23 in. (91.44 × 101.6 × 58.42 cm)
Decorative Arts and Design
American Art - 18th Century, Level 4
Dallas Museum of Art, The Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vincent A. Carrozza
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

Although details such as the shell carvings and distinctive banding around each drawer front suggest Boston associations, design features such as the shape of the legs and the compressed oval openings in the pediment indicate this chest was made in Essex County, Massachusetts. By the 1730s, British American towns were large and prosperous enough to support a wide variety of specialized craftsmen, some of whom had emigrated from England. Unlike their counterparts in New Spain or London, who were members of royal guilds, craftsmen in colonial British America were independent businessmen. Because there was no single stylistic capital in the British colonies, the work of these craftsmen often had strong regional characteristics.

Excerpt from

Kevin W. Tucker, DMA unpublished material, Label text (1985.B.18.A-E), 2006.

Fun Facts

  • Of the many important examples of American furniture in the Bybee collection, this high chest of drawers is perhaps the finest piece, and the best documented, for its provenance is known for virtually its entire lifetime.

  • Upon the death of the original owner, Daniel Staniford in 1757, this chest of drawers was among the items of greatest value in his house. Just fifty-eight years later, in the estate inventory taken after the death of Jacob Treadwell in 1815, this no-longer fashionable "Case of drawers" was valued at only $5, and along with its accompanying (now lost) "dressing base," was listed last on the inventory, indicating their probable location in an attic or storage room. Jacob Treadwell's will, written in 1805, left specific bequests to his children, but neither the chest nor the dressing table is listed. Being old and out of fashion, and consigned to an out-of-the-way room, they were probably deemed too insignificant to mention. Upon the death of its succeeding owner, Captain Nathaniel Wade, in 1826, it is valued at $3. Today this chest is considered one of the finest surviving New England Queen Anne high chests in existence.