Skip to main content

Main Building

High Chest of Drawers

1765-1775
Artist/maker unknown, American

While the bed chambers of chic early Philadelphia houses often featured a high chest (for storing textiles; 1957-129-1) and dressing table (for cosmetics and hair accessories; 2012-59-1), this pairing represents the pinnacle of design, cabinetmaking, and carved ornament. The raised space underneath the high chest distinguishes it as a confection of North America since the British had abandoned that design by the 1730s.

While most high chests and dressing tables fit within well-defined groups, the proportions and shaping of the rails and the legs of this pairing relate to only one other dressing table, making it difficult to identify the maker. The choice mahogany, with an even surface and swirling figure, signifies the status of the commission. And a highly skilled carver ornamented it profusely—most conspicuously with a narrative from Aesop’s fable of “The Fox and the Grapes” on the central bottom drawers. Aesop’s moralistic tales were the only fiction Quakers were allowed to read.

...

Object Details

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.


Main Building