Dressing table

Mahogany, yellow poplar, cherry, and sycamore
Overall: 30 7/8 x 35 x 21 3/8 in. (78.41 x 88.9 x 54.28 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 Mrs. J. William Griffith
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

Dressing tables were often made in conjunction with high chests. Placed in a bedchamber, the high chest held linens and apparel, while the dressing table contained smaller personal items such as combs, jewelry, hair ribbons, and cosmetics. In accordance with their function, looking glasses were commonly placed above and chairs in front of these tables.

This example is part of a large group of dressing tables which was made along the Connecticut River. Typical of this regional tradition are cabriole legs which bend only slightly at the knee, carved shells on the central drawer with a concave area below, and a widely overhanging top. However, those examples made up river in the Hartford-Wethersfield area usually have scalloped skirts and occasionally scalloped tops as well.

This particular dressing table relates most closely to a small group of furniture from the Lyme-Saybrook area at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Examples from this group are known which have virtually identical legs, knee responds, carved shells, and no upper rail, as here. The extensive use of mahogany in this dressing table also suggests a coastal Connecticut origin. Mahogany was easier to obtain on the coast due to the extensive shipping which occurred along Long Island Sound.

Adapted from

Charles L. Venable, American Furniture in the Bybee Collection, (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, published in association with the Dallas Museum of Art, 1989), 24.

Fun Facts

This dressing table is made of four different kinds of wood: the drops are probably mahogany replacements, the drawer fronts, top and case sides are solid mahogany, the legs are cherry, and the two medial front to back drawer dividers are sycamore. The rest of the drawers and supports are easter white pine.