Essex County cupboard – related chests

Too cold to bother trying to work on the cupboard today. The shop stove does all right, but not when it’s this frigid. Time to look at some leftover research on the shop that made the Essex County cupboard I’m reproducing. An earlier post looked at a couple of other cupboard-like things.

This time chests. Below is a photos from Skinner’s auctions – a chest that I had seen in 1990. It was the first full-on examination I ever did of a joined chest, measurements, photos – all done at an antiques shop in Massachusetts. But I barely knew what I was looking at.

Essex Co chest w drawer

I didn’t know it in 1990, but today I can tell you that all that turning on the front of this chest is replaced. None of it is like the originals from the shop. The format, arches, crossed middle panel, applied pairs of turnings – all that is fine. My pictures are gone, I can’t tell about the moldings…

My notes from 1990 include a sketch I sent to Jennie Alexander explaining that the inside surface of the back was decorated with moldings and beveled edges to the framing. I thought it was on inside-out! I learned otherwise – eventually.

PF to JA undated, 1990

There’s lots of these chests-with-drawer from this shop. Like the cupboards, they exhibit a great variety of decoration, but are clearly recognizable. Here’s one from the Museum of Fine Art’s (Boston) website. The finish was completely redone before 1932. But the large pilasters on the stiles are typical, the pairs as well. And the drawer front decorated by mitered appliques inset into molded grooves.

MFA #37.91

Some have checkered paint decoration on the panels like this one below. My notes say “Sotheby’s 2005” – which to me means I barely noticed this existed. My kids were born that year & I was busier than I have ever been before or since. So I must have copied this off the web, stuck it in a folder and got back to 2 newborns. But some typical bits – especially the deep lower rail with two rows of integral molding on the ends. Those are on many of the cupboards. All (or most) of these chests use wooden pintle hinges for the lids – not iron hinges.

Sotheby’s 2005

There’s two painted ones in the Hoxie House, a historic house in Sandwich Massachusetts. This one’s initialed “MP”

MP chest

And this one dated 1701 and initialed “IP”

IP 1701

There’s some I’ve lost track of – if I ever knew their whereabouts. Today I poked around through some old articles and books. Here’s one in a 1938 article in the Magazine Antiques. It had been in one family since the 17th century; this view is its un-restored condition.

Alvin Story Brown chest in 1938

In 1960 the same chest again appeared in the Magazine Antiques – the arch is fixed, the applied turnings on the proper right stile (our left) replaced. It’s initialed HT and dated 1685.

now restored as of 1960

One just sold this month in New York. Flatsawn panels in front. Weird.

MK 1699

That’s very much like one at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT. Deep rails, mitered inserts on the drawer front. Wooden hinges. Initialed and dated – AC 1699.

AC 1699

(most of these photos I got off the various museum or auction-house websites. A few are mine. The most comprehensive article about this shop is,-Massachusetts,-Shop-

(pt 30 Essex County cupboard project 2021/22)

6 thoughts on “Essex County cupboard – related chests

  1. a question about the wooden hinges you mentioned. is that typically due to cost or availability or aesthetics or is there some other reason for the hinges to be wooden rather than iron in this period?

    • No telling. These objects usually had locks and always had nails – so it’s not as if they didn’t have access to iron work. If I had to guess – and guess it would be – I’d say preference. Hinges weren’t expensive, and these joiners made some of the most expensive examples of woodwork, so cost should not matter.

      • does sound very reasonable. it felt a little odd from a modern perspective because the whole thing seemed so incredibly ornate that the expense of iron hinges would have been negligible. must say i love wooden hinges — maybe i’m just anachronistic.

  2. Wow. You certainly have a wealth of knowledge. I am so impressed. Stay warm. Hello to Maureen.


    On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 11:17 AM PETER FOLLANSBEE: JOINER’S NOTES wrote:

    > pfollansbee posted: ” Too cold to bother trying to work on the cupboard > today. The shop stove does all right, but not when it’s this frigid. Time > to look at some leftover research on the shop that made the Essex County > cupboard I’m reproducing. An earlier post looked at a cou” >

  3. When you mentioned that you took measurements of these chests, I hope you didn’t use a tape or yardstick
    I mentioned this because while taking a chest class at Connecicut valley school you would never give me a measurement!!! Remember???

  4. Thanks for the info I have become very fond of these old chests. I have a thing for oak and they are so ornate, just gorgeous.and proportionate to themselves. Its hard to picture how big they are, it looks like some could be in a doll house & still look great.

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