High Chest (1993.104)

Katie Fitzgerald, WPAMC '19

This chest-on-chest has several fascinating stories to tell. Unlike (1992.0109) this one has two short drawers at the top of the upper case. In addition, its primary wood is maple rather than cherry. Similarities between these two chests include the flat molded cornice, applied waist molding to the lower case, fleur-de-lis drop, and cabriole legs with pad feet. Close examination of this chest-on-chest also proves its Dominy origin; however, there are several additions to this object that may provide further details about its history of ownership and use.

A faded and scratched inscription underneath the proper left drawer is yet undeciphered, but appears to have a name written in red paint pen. Perhaps saying “Leston,” it is similar to some of the other names in the Dominy account books, but none of these clients ever ordered a chest-on-chest under their own names. The red pigment is not 18th century, but it is possible that a descendant of one of the original owners felt the need to identify themselves on the drawer.

The upper case also contains a more contemporary mystery. When the two long drawers at the top of the upper case are removed, the drawer blade between them is revealed as a replacement. In addition, a dark paint was applied inside the space containing these two drawers, with a clear line where a plank rested on the lower drawer blade.

Some of this dark pigment has been removed on the proper right side of the case interior, but enough remains to inspire many questions. Whoever added this pigment removed the drawer blade but saved the two drawers; what did the drawers contain during this time? More obviously, what went into this space in the case itself? The most likely theory proposed thus far is that this was used to display something, but no further evidence of the objects on display remains. Even the plank itself has been lost from this case. For items by a well-known craftsman, these murky areas of the chest-on-chest’s story are somewhat surprising; however, these missing stories inspire scholars to think beyond the known lineage of an object.