High chest of drawers

c. 1700–1725
White pine, maple, walnut, and brass
Overall: 64 1/16 x 40 1/16 x 22 3/8 in. (1 m 62.72 cm x 101.76 cm x 56.833 cm)
Decorative Arts and Design
American Art - 18th Century, Level 4
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Eugene McDermott Foundation in memory of Helen Ulmer Van Atta
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.

General Description

The squared-off forms, matched panels of veneer, ebonized trumpet-shaped legs, and delicate hardware of this high chest reflect the influence of northern Europe and Spain upon English furniture of the late 17th century and, in turn, that of colonial America. This work was originally owned by the merchant William Sever and his wife, Sarah Warren, of Kingston, Rhode Island. The pieces were undoubtedly made in Boston.

The high chest (sometimes referred to as a "highboy") replaced the cupboard as the most important piece of case furniture in the early 18th-century American household. The top of the high chest, like that of the cupboard, provided a convenient place for keeping and displaying glass, ceramics, and sometimes silver. Inventory records show that the chests usually stood in the parlor or the "best chamber" (a parlor-like room) and were often accompanied by a table [1993.31.FA]. Very few matching high chests and dressing tables of the William and Mary period have survived.

Adapted from

  • Kevin W. Tucker, DMA label copy, 2006.

  • DMA unpublished material.

Fun Facts

This high chest of drawers dressing table (commonly referred to as a "highboy") and its accompanying dressing table ("lowboy") stayed in the same family from 1775 to its acquisition by the Dallas Museum of Art in 1993.

Web Resources

  • Library of Congress
    View photos of the exterior and interior of the Squire William Sever House, 2 Linden Street, Kingston, MA.