Tonight, a follow-up to two earlier posts about William Savell, and his sons John & William, of Braintree, Massachusetts.
The surviving examples of carved oak boxes attributed to these joiners are my favorite models for making this common form of furniture. The above photos are of an oak box, with a pine bottom. Usually period boxes like these are carved only on the front board. Typically they are nailed together, right through the front & rear boards, into the end grain of the box sides.
This shop carved the sides as well as the front, and fastened the rabbet joints with square wooden pins instead of nails. This box is one of two surviving examples, both in museum collections, that we attributed to John Savell (1642-1687). [apologies for the photos’ color, these are both the same box – I’m working here with old slides…]
The carving on the box’s front board is directly from the top rail of the joined chests, while the side boards of the box relate to the carved panels on the chests.
Long after the article was published in 1996, Robert Trent showed me a box in a private collection that I feel now was made by William Savell (1590s-1669). It too is carved on 3 sides, pegged not nailed, and also features the chisel & punch band of zig-zags above & below the carved patterns.
There are many other direct quotes in the carved patterns, linking this box to the others & to the carved joined chests. Among these similarities are the “broken” concave outline on the side view, as well as the gouge-chopped decoration just outside the lunette on the same view. Below is a detail from a joined & boarded chest at the Smithsonian showing the same motif:
I have carved many examples of these boxes; usually I adapt them one way or another, although sometimes I have made direct copies of them. Below is my most recent take on these boxes; done in white oak – followed by a copy I made years ago of the desk box illustrated in the American Furniture article.