With our highest compliments Bay Colony Antiques takes the utmost pride in presenting for sale one of the absolute finest examples of early American tiger maple case furniture that our firm has held throughout half a century of continuous operation. We are most privileged to have had the opportunities through our large network of dealers, collectors, and friends to experience and study treasured American historical furnishings and objects that not even the largest museums and institutions have access to and count ourselves amongst a select few firms to routinely offer the highest grades of the finest American furniture ever produced; especially in a market full of growing scarcity and increasing challenges to daily operations. Our passion for the American Federal movement and the greater overall treasury of early American design has brought us to every remote part of the U.S. and into the homes of many of the nations leading collectors of American historical furniture and fine art. Through this continued practice of buying the best and going to the furthest reaches of the country when required we are able to put forth a catalogue of rare and historically important early furnishings for our discerning collectors nationwide. In an effort to accurately denote what an exceptional federal chest we now bring to market we felt it necessary to explain our collective passion for the subject and the subsequent scarcity of the chest of drawers now respectfully offered for sale.
The chest of drawers was constructed somewhere in New England throughout the American federal period, likely in Massachusetts or lower New Hampshire close to the coastal communities around Portsmouth no later than the era considered to be the height of the federal period circa 1790 - 1810. This dating is conservative as it is far more likely to have been made during the American revolution period when colonial shipping ports were no longer receiving exotic mahogany hardwood shipments from half a world away and craftsmen turned to the beautiful hardwoods native to their respective colonies. Coastal and upper New England has long been home to the finest old growth maple trees the world over. We can determine age through a study of construction, design, and materials all of which indicate that this chest of drawers was the artistic labor of a cabinetmaker well versed in the emerging American federal design which originated within the largest American port cities where the wealthiest patrons, choicest materials, and most renowned craftsmen all coalesced in a cultural melting pot that produced some of the finest art and cultural treasures in our history. Access to solid tiger maple lumber with this much richness of character and quality of grain has always been extremely scarce and only a well connected cabinetmaker could have procured the lumber for presumably a patron of considerable means. Quite often curly quartersawn maple, commonly called tiger maple, was far too valuable for furniture construction so the flitches were reserved for instrument makers who purchased the thin cut veneers for construction of violins. The term "instrument grade" is reserved for the absolute best of the best hardwood lumber which every facet of this magnificent chest of drawers was constructed from. The denotation is important for understanding one of the aspects which places this chest far above any other seemingly comparable maple chest from the same historical region and design. Most remarkably, the chest retains heavy areas of the original varnish which to historical furniture collectors places a scarcity and value that few early furnishings can still compare to. The chest was cleaned periodically through centuries of ownership, it was customary in times of smallpox outbreaks for families to quarantine at home and meticulously scrub all woodwork and furniture to reduce their chances of infection. This early history is essential to understand why the presence of large areas of the first varnish surface remaining undisturbed is so appealing to collectors who cherish antiques as original as possible with respect to the historical periods those furnishings survived through. The exterior case is joined with finely formed pins which tightly bond the drawer transitions to the left and right sides of the case while each drawer is joined with exceptional handcut dovetails throughout. The top drawer was designed to store the most clothing while the lower three drawers are all graduated in size which enhances the overall design appeal. Each drawer retains the original brass escutcheon and opens and shuts with relative ease. The top is slightly overhung and the case is raised by four elegantly turned legs. It is our distinct privilege to be the current owners of this remarkable chest of drawers and it is our sincere hope to find the perfect home for future generations. The chest measures 42 1/8” wide x 20 1/2” deep x 37 1/2” tall.