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Chest of Drawers

Artist/Maker:
Calvert, Gerrard __Workshop of
Place Made:
Mason County Kentucky United States of America
Date Made:
1795-1800
Medium:
cherry –light and dark wood inlay –poplar
Dimensions:
HOA: 42 3/8″; WOA: 41 3/4″; DOA: 21 3/8″
Accession Number:
5691.1
Description:
This chest of drawers is part of a large group of “bandy legged” furniture made in and around Mason County, Kentucky, between about 1795 and 1830.

An example with a carved till with the name “P. Tuttle” is known. Based on that example the entire group has, for many years, been associated with Peter Tuttle (1792-1859). More recent research suggests that Tuttle was part of a family of cabinetmakers that also included Gerrard Calvert (1765-1840) and John Foxworthy (1782-1857). Foxworthy was Calvert’s nephew and Tuttle, a younger man, was Foxworthy’s son-in-law. Calvert, Foxworthy, and Tuttle, were all born in Prince William County, Virginia. It is most likely that Calvert was trained as a cabinetmaker in Virginia while Foxworthy and Tuttle both learned their trade in Kentucky, probably as apprentices in Calvert’s workshop.

In addition to chests of drawers, desks, blanket chests, sugar chests, and stools with bandy legs are all known. The earliest examples, including this one, have drawer bottoms that are made in two-pieces and held in place by a batten that runs front to back. This is the most inlaid example known. Graduated bellflowers run along its chamfered sides and each drawer has quarter fans that reduce in size to match its proportions. The skirt is inlaid with a central fan flanked by patarae above the feet.

Though the inlay relates loosely to neoclassical furniture made in the northern Chesapeake, there is little in that region to account for its distinctive cabriole legs.. Indeed, the closest parallel is found in the furniture of the lower Mississippi River Valley where such legs are referred to in French as “pied de biche.” Mason County bordered the Ohio River, and Washington, where the Calvert shop was located, was the first inland city after the port of Maysville. Maysville was Kentucky’s most important Ohio River port at the beginning of the 19th century. It seems likely that this piece reflects both the Virginia origin of its craftsmen and the New Orleans focus of their economy.

Based on the sheer number of surviving pieces, “bandy legged” furniture was extremely popular in the region surrounding Mason County, Kentucky, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Indeed, it is likely that at the height of the style’s popularity it was being produced by many craftsmen in multiple shops.

DESCRIPTION: Chest on frame: Has five graduated drawers; rectangular stringing on drawer fronts with quarter-fan inlay in corners and inverted tear-drop at key holes; chamfered corners terminating in lamb’s tongues with a string of seventeen graduated bellflowers hanging from one upended flower; banded inlay of light and dark wood at the base of the case; scalloped apron, both front and sides; center scallop on front has a fan-inlay of light and dark wood; leg blocks have inlaid paterae; cabriole legs terminating without feet.

History:
Purchased from a shop in either Paris or Maysville, Kentucky.
Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund