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Chest

Artist/Maker:
Huddle, John __Attributed to
Place Made:
Wythe County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
1825-1830
Medium:
poplar
Dimensions:
HOA: 27″; WOA: 51″; DOA: 21″
Accession Number:
4009
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Paint-decorated poplar chest: Two lunetted rectangular painted panels with flowers in pitchers on front, sponge decoration elsewhere, and two painted stars in two lunetted rectangular panels on top; straight bracket feet have vertical chamfered glue-blocks; feet and base molding are all one piece; case and bracket feet are dovetailed; till inside of chest on left; molded top secured with pegs; decoratively engraved lock; foliated strap hinges secure the lid.

GROUP and MAKER: Wythe County was home to the most extensive school of paint-decorated furniture in the southwestern part of Virginia. A tight-knit community of Germans and Swiss settled in the western half of the county and by 1800 had established four Lutheran and Reformed churches, all within a ten-mile radius. Four distinct groups of Wythe County painted chests have been identified, most of them with three arched-head panels containing pots of tulips and other lacy, tulip-like flowers. Later chests from this school have the lunetted square panels seen on this example. More than thirty chests in this group survive, and two of them bear the painted signature of Johannes Huddle (1772-1839). The elaborate locks and strap hinges seen on many of the chests bear the initials “JH” and “JD,” and some were probably made by Johannes’s brother Henry Huddle (1768-1841), who was a carpenter and a blacksmith.

Johannes Huddle was born on June 1, 1772 in Shenandoah County, Virginia, to Elizabeth Pfeifferin and Johannes Huddle, Sr.. His father died shortly after his birth, and Elizabeth was later remarried to Peter Spangler. The family moved to present-day Wythe County around 1781. According to family tradition, Johannes Huddle and his brothers Henry and Gideon were apprenticed to learn carpentry from their step-uncle, Jacob Spangler (1756-1827). The number of woodworking tools listed in Huddle and Spangler family probate inventories suggest they may have been responsible for making as well as painting many of these chests.

See J. Roderick Moore, “Painted Chests frm Wythe County,” The Magazine Antiques, September 1982.

History:
HISTORY: This chest was made for Anna Brown (1803-1861) and her husband George Umberger (1806-1875), probably around the time of their marriage on March 15, 1827. A painted chest nearly identicial to MESDA’s is dated 1829 on the back and inscribed “1829/Jahr” on the left urn. The Umberger and Brown families lived in western Wythe County in close proximity to the Huddles, and two of Anna Brown’s sisters were married to members of the Huddle family. Elizabeth Brown married Jonas Huddle (1806-1881), the son of blacksmith and carpenter Henry Huddle, while Ruhama Brown married David Huddle (1809-1887), son of the carpenter and paint decorator, Johannes. The chest descended from George and Anna (Brown) Umberger to their daughter Elizabeth (Umberger) Tilson (1834-1906), to her son Sampson Tilson (1872-1920), to his son James Robert Tilson (1904-1989).

A three-drawer chest painted with three arched-head panels, now in the Colonial Williamsburg Collection, descended in the family of George Umberger’s sister, Catherine (Umberger) Kegley (1805-1864). Its paint decoration can be attributed to Johannes Huddle, but the interior of the chest is signed by another Wythe County carpenter named William Brunner (1794-1870).

Credit Line:
Anonymous Purchase Fund