Collections › MESDA Collection › Cellaret


Place Made:
Petersburg Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
walnut –yellow pine –birch
HOA 34 1/4; WOA 25 3/16; DOA 15 3/8
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Cellaret or bottle case consisting of a chest on frame; the chest with box lid hinged on body of chest with 15 compartments, the corners with light wood insets of unknown species; mounted with knob on top and rococo brasses; the chest supported by a molded frame with a single lipped edge drawer; lightwood cockbead inlay on the top of the case, the lid and down the front corners; the whole supported by turned tapered legs with cuff and tassel feet.

GROUP: Stylistically, the cellaret is related to a group of guttae-footed tables produced in Petersburg in the 1760s and 1770s (Prown, “A Cultural Analysis of Furniture-Making in Petersburg, Virginia, 1760-1820” JESDA, May 1992, 14-16). This object differs from that group in that its guttae feet are turned, rather than shaped and carved. The lightwood stringing on the case connects it to a small group of tables and another cellaret in the Petersburg Lightwood Cockbead Group (see MESDA Research Center file). In fact, the Parsons family cellaret may be the earliest known piece in this group.

Petersburg served as the major market center for a large region that stretched south past the North Carolina line. Families like the one this cellaret descended in maintained close ties within the larger region. Petersburg cabinetmakers had an impact on the region as well. The light wood inlay on the cellaret’s top and front edges is similar to the treatment seen on later cellarets attributed to Micajah Wilkes (d.1842) that were made in Halifax and Bertie counties of North Carolina (Newbern and Melchor, “WH Cabinetmaker: A Southern Mystery Solved”, Legacy Ink Publishing, 2009, 241-270).

Research conducted by Dale Hauck during the 2010 MESDA Summer Institute suggests that this cellaret was made in Petersburg, Virginia. The attribution is based on both genealogical and stylistic evidence.

The cellaret was acquired by MESDA in 1995. It had previously belonged to Mrs. Frances T. Busbee (d. 1995) of Goode, Virginia, and to Sarah Hall (Smith) Busbee (1849-1931) of Raleigh, North Carolina. Sarah was the granddaughter of Elizabeth (Plummer) Weldon Parsons (died c. 1818) from whom the cellaret probably descended. Elizabeth’s first husband, William Weldon (c.1755-c.1785) lived in Halifax County, North Carolina. Her second husband, William Parsons (d.1802) lived in Prince George County, Virginia. Intermarriages in the Parsons-Weldon family present numerous opportunities to link the cellaret to Petersburg. Its original owner was probably Elizabeth’s father-in-law, Captain William Parsons (1729-1792), a Revolutionary War captain and wealthy planter who lived in Prince George County, just outside of Petersburg.

For details of the Weldon-Smith-Busbee family and its relationship to the Parsons, Thweatt, Peterson and Cocke families of Prince George County, Virginia, see Claiborne Thweatt Smith, Jr., “Smith of Scotland Neck,” Gateway Press, 1976).

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund