I remember when this blog had integrity…what’s happened here anyway?
Nah…I haven’t sold out – it’s just another day in the 17th century.
box with drawer, Ipswich, Massachusetts, made between 1663-1706; Bowdoin College Museum of Art
The 17th-century work of Thomas Dennis – and to some extent William Searle, but it’s a long story that I think might involve murder…has long been a huge inspiration to me.
[Oh…what did I mean, about murder? You see Searle was a trained joiner from Ottery St Mary, Devon, England, living in Ipswich Massachusetts in the early 1660s. Then, 1666 or so, he died. Thomas Dennis then moved from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Ipswich, married Grace Searle, widow of William, and practiced joinery there until his death in 1706. There’s a group of maybe 4 or 5 pieces, all carved, that descended from Thomas Dennis – but were some of them his wife’s from her first marriage to Searle? When Searle died, his estate included the following:
“one bedsted & Cupboard £5 a trundle bedsted & a box & a little box £1 3 stooles & 3 little boxes —- one Chaire £1 one table & 3 Chaires & one Cradle £1-5 2 wicker basketts 4s one settle one meale trough & a Chest £2 one Cupboard £2-12 a box 5s Tooles & Timber & board, 2 pikes £3-19”
Furniture scholars have tried to divide the group into Searle’s work & Dennis’ work – and some that are probably apprentices of Thomas Dennis – and on & on. I gave up years ago. But I have often wanted to write a murder mystery involving Dennis & Searle, and the widow Grace Searle…]
I went to Bowdoin College Museum of Art http://www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum/ to see the pieces from the Dennis family, including the wainscot chair that is the inspiration for the one in my new video. There’s a segment in the video where we look at the original; and hear its story from the curator Laura Sprague. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/
On another trip up there, I got a brief look at the carved box with drawer (above) that is the basis for one I am making these days. I had known this box from publications ever since I began studying 17th-century stuff. but had never seen it in the flesh. First thing I noticed upon walking into the gallery – the lid is sycamore (you Brits, think “plane tree”). There are very few instances of this wood in surviving works from 17th-century New England. Maybe two others? One I know for sure is a cupboard at Winterthur Museum that uses sycamore boards for drawer bottoms – a horrible idea if, as in this case, they are flatsawn.
The lid of the Dennis family box is sawn very near the heart of the tree. In this shot, you can see splits running down the middle of the board. Mine are 3 quartersawn boards, edge glued together. I got the sycamore from the website http://www.curlymaplewood.com/ – the boards were just as described, arrived in just a couple of days, and all around a good experience. Thanks, Kevin. Now you know why the figured wood in the opening photo.
We’ll save the sliding DTs for another day…(quite a term, sliding DTs…)