STYLE: The serpentine center with ovolo ends is an unusual shape for sideboards. The shape, design, and inlay are repeated on a nearly identical sideboard that descended in the Waller family of Winchester. A third sideboard in this group is serpentine-shaped at the center with cavetto ends, features the same dashed inlay and tulip inlay, and descended in the Tucker family of Berryville near Winchester.
SCHOOL: The sophistication of some of the cabinetwork of the upper Valley of Virginia is becoming more evident. This example repeats the quality of work from the shop of Charles C. Cameron working a few miles north in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. This stylish sophistication is in great contrast to the work of John Shearer, working in Martinsburg, and serving customers in the same area as Cameron and the unknown maker of this sideboard.
FORM: Serpentine sideboards were being advertised in the Valley of Virginia as early as 1799. On 9 October of that year, Shepherdstown cabinetmaker William Eaty announced in the Berkely Intelligencer that “gentlemen and ladies may be supplied with the newest and neatest fashions, such as mahogany sash, corner, cylinder, and serpentine Sideboards.”
WOODS: Mahogany with dark and light wood inlays; yellow pine secondary wood.
The Henkel and Miller families were closely intermarried. Ellen’s parents were Dr. Casper Coiner Henkel (1835-1908) of New Market and his wife, Margaretta Miller (1837-1922) of Winchester. Ellen Henkel and her husband, Frank Rupert, were both grandchildren of Dr. Solomon Henkel (1777-1847) of New Market and his wife, Rebecca Miller (1780-1854) of Winchester, who may have been the original owners of the sideboard.
The Henkels and Millers were prominent doctors, merchants, and Lutheran ministers in the Shenandoah Valley. One of Frank Rupert’s ancestors was the cabinetmaker Henry Rupert.
Related objects in the MESDA Collection include copperplate portraits of the Reverend Paul Henkel and his wife Elizabeth (Acc. 5550.4a&b), a fraktur for Silon Amos Henkel (Acc. 5853), a profile portrait drawn by Silon Amos Henkel (Acc. 5163), a chair (Acc. 5838) with a Henkel line of descent, and several examples of printed works by the Henkel Press.