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Painted Chest

Place Made:
Frederick County Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
poplar, yellow pine, paint
HOA: 25 3/4; WOA: 49 1/2; DOA: 22 3/8
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Painted blanket chest; decoration on front consists of central basket/urn with flowers and vines trailing outward to the edges; painted in sgraffito technique–underpainted with layer of orange, overpainted with green/blue and then scraped to produce orange design on green/blue ground; applied molded base and top; bracket feet; dovetail sides.

The decoration on this chest is executed in a technique called sgraffito. A top layer of paint is selectively scraped away to reveal a contrasting color below. Although the technique is common on Pennsylvania German pottery it is highly unusual on furniture. However, MESDA has documented at least one other chest from the region decorated in a similar manner.

Made for Adam Neff (1777-before 1818) of Frederick County, Maryland, who was fourteen when he acquired this chest. Its decorative vocabulary speaks to the Neff family’s Germanic heritage and links to southeastern Pennsylvania. Adam’s father, Adam Neff (1733-1818), was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and his grandfather Jacob Neff (1688-1751) was born in Duhren, Germany. Jacob Neff arrived in Pennsylvania about 1717 and settled in Coventry Township in Chester County. In 1735 his family moved to Kreutz Creek in Lancaster County, and in 1740 the family migrated along the Great Wagon Road to Frederick County, Maryland. There they attended the Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church. Adam Neff’s 1797 marriage to Elizabeth Ott is recorded in their records.
Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton