Early Century Wood

Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk


Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk
Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk

Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk    Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk

This gorgeous and rather large chest comes from the family estate of a neighbor of mine. For as long as she could remember, going back to her childhood, it had been sitting in a barn, half buried under cobwebs and hay stacks. It's only many years later, having developed a taste for antiques, that she started thinking about this chest again, understanding now, in retrospect, what a hidden gem it was.

Fast-forward three decades: it was now her turn to downsize, and she decided to part with most of her vast collection of antiques. And that's how this chest landed in my collection. Based on its remarkable decor, both naive in style and quite graceful in design and execution, I date this chest to the first half of the 19th century. The color palette is extremely satisfying, combining off-white, dark green, touches of yellow, brick-red and black with this very appealing gray blue-green ground that is somewhere between dark turquoise, teal blue and sea green. The central figure, a red-coated man dressed in the fashion of the 18th century, riding a white horse and aiming with the pistol he's holding in his right hand, is quite vivid and exciting.

Not so common to see in folk art pieces, that mostly show pretty static scenes, landscapes or even purely symbolic subjects, the depiction of an actual figure caught in the middle of action, with such a tangible sense of movement, and in the middle of a fight or battle at that, aiming at an invisible enemy with his pistol! It is actually very rare. Interestingly, the inside of the lid was lined with newspaper sheets that I managed to date to September 1832. So, even though any possible scenario could be imagined as to when these sheets of newspaper were glued to the lid of the chest and how accurately they allow one to date this piece, I think it's reasonable to consider that whoever did it used what was handy, which, in all likelihood, was a recently issued newspaper, or issued only a few years earlier. Which led me to conservatively date this chest to ca 1840.

Naturally, I strongly recommend leaving these newspaper sheets in place, as they are not only crucial to the dating of this piece of American history, but they are, in and of themselves, a constitutive part of its value. The overall wear and look of the materials are congruent with a ca 1840 date: slight fading of the colors, cracks, scratches and chips to the paint, chipped wood. All these signs of age are distributed evenly over the whole piece, making for a wonderful patina that speaks to the object's long life, like wrinkles on a dear one's face. Besides, the chest is still very sound structurally, and its surface has been protected with matte finish (probably over a layer of wax). The chest latch was lost, but the swing keyhole cover is still there. The handles on the side and the lock area seem to have been repainted black at a recent date. Overall good antique condition for a two-century-old painted chest.

Dimensions: 30" x 14" x 13. Figure on the horse: 7 tall from head to toe. Please make sure you read the following carefully. This item is available for local pick-up in Boston, MA.


Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk    Rare museum quality Early American ca 1840 hand-painted wood dome chest trunk