"The Fox and the Grapes" Dressing Table

Artist/maker unknown, American

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Mahogany, yellow poplar, white cedar, yellow pine; brass

29 7/8 x 35 x 23 1/4 inches (75.9 x 88.9 x 59.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 287, American Art, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by Leslie A. Miller and Richard B. Worley, Kathy and Ted Fernberger, Mrs. J. Maxwell Moran, Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, Lyn M. Ross, Sarah Miller Coulson, Donna C. and Morris W. Stroud II, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Vogel III, Dr. and Mrs. Robert E. Booth, Jr., Dr. Salvatore M. Valenti, Peggy Cooke, Hannah L. Henderson, Lawrence H. and Julie C. Berger, Hollie and Jamie Holt, George M. and Linda H. Kaufman, David and Margaret Langfitt, Richard Wood Snowden, and other generous individuals, gifts (by exchange) of Howard Reifsnyder, R. Wistar Harvey, and Charles C. Willis, the Lynford Starr Bequest for American Decorative Art, The Bloomfield Moore Fund, The Saul/O’Keefe Fund for American Furniture Acquisition, the Joseph E. Temple Fund, the E. Beatty Acquisition Fund, the Lea Fund, the Center for American Art Fund, and with funds from the proceeds of the sale of deaccessioned works of art, 2012

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For fashionable eighteenth-century Philadelphians, high chests and dressing tables represented the pinnacle of design, cabinetmaking, and carving in bedchamber furniture. This dressing table was conceived with a massive high chest of drawers (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1957-129-1). On its central drawer a composition borrowed from a 1761 publication by English carver Thomas Johnson depicts the moment of truth from Aesop’s well-known fable “The Fox and the Grapes”: a proud and skillful fox who cannot reach a bunch of succulent grapes decries them as sour and not desirable after all. The tale warns against the ills of greed and vanity, an ironic scene on this bold emblem of opulence.

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