What is this?

thumbnail-high-chestOur exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more,

Chest-on-chest, possibly made by the shop of Silas Rice, 1790-1810, cherry, brass hardware, bequest of Thomas Barbour

Chest-on-chest, possibly made by the shop of Silas Rice, 1790-1810, cherry, brass hardware, bequest of Thomas Barbour

Like today, houses in the 18th century Connecticut varied in size depending on a family’s economic means. A typical farming family might live in a house with two to eight rooms. Some families had just a table, wooden chairs, a chest, and straw mattresses. Wealthier Connecticut colonists had fine, handcrafted furniture and luxuries like sofas, clocks, and mirrors. A high chest of drawers symbolized a family’s wealth and status and would be handed down to future generations.

This chest-on-chest was probably made from the shop of Silas Rice, in Wallingford, CT, in between the periods of 1790 and 1810.

2006_9_0dt2The chest-on-chest, made of cherry, has a removable swan’s neck pediment in the Federal, or neoclassical, style. The steep swan’s neck pediment is open at the center; each upper end of the pediment molding terminates in a carved sunburst rosette. A cartouche (replaced), located at the top of the pediment between the rosettes, is in the shape of a pierced four-lobed pinwheel with asymmetrical C-scrolls above and below; it sits on a bulbous, or waisted, plinth over a semi-circular applied inverted shell. Below the rosettes and molding the pediment has fretwork, or two pierced panels of wood, decorated with ovals; each side of the pediment has a single pierced, four-lobed pinwheel.

The pinwheel cartouche

The pinwheel cartouche

The removable pediment

The removable pediment

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