Inlaid Mahogany Chest; Baltimore, c.1780
an early Federal inlaid mahogany chest of drawers of exceptional quality and small size; poplar secondary wood; one board sides and top; full depth, framed panel dustboards are dadoed into the sides of the case; sliding dovetails join the top to sides; retains most of the original brasses with some posts and rosettes replaced; some foot glue blocks have been replaced; the transitional nature of the piece is apparent in the combination of Chippendale ogee feet, base molding, and molded top edge, together with the line inlay and cockbeaded drawers of the Federal period; the use of highly figured veneers on the drawer fronts, while considered extravagant during the Chippendale period, is more common on Federal chests; this chest is closely related to a slightly larger example signed by James Martin, Lovely Lane, Baltimore; a stronger attribution might be made to the Bankson and Lawson cabinetmaking shop, or “tradition”, based on the use of exceptional materials, construction methods similar to other attributed B & L case pieces, and the strong design reliance on earlier George III prototypes; see figures 17 and 19 in The Genesis of Neoclassical Style in Baltimore Furniture (Priddy, Flanigan, and Weidman); dimensions: 32 7/8″ tall x 33 7/8″ wide x 18 1/2″ deep (scroll down for details).
(http://www.chipstone.org/images.php/402/American-Furniture-2000/The-Genesis-of-Neoclassical-Style-in-Baltimore-Furniture, photo, Gavin Ashworth)
This mahogany five-drawer Chippendale chest of drawers, cataloged as “transitional” and from Maryland (est. $3000/ 5000), came up for sale late in the day on Sunday and went at $22,000 to David Markowski, who works with his father, Dave Mark, co-owners of Anne Arundel House Antiques, Linthicum Heights, Maryland. He plans to keep it for his own collection. During his examination of the chest the week before the auction, Markowski discovered a signature. He took the upper left-hand drawer out into the sunlight where he could discern “James Martin Lovely Lane Baltimore” lightly written in pencil in script on the underside. That evening, father and son drove to the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to look for information on James Martin. There was very little in the museum’s file on James Martin, but he is listed as a cabinetmaker in Furniture in Maryland 1740-1940 (1984) by Gregory R. Weidman, who states that Martin moved from South Street to Lovely Lane in 1791. Markowski said the chest is clearly transitional because it has ogee bracket feet and a molded top edge with applied cove molding underneath the top, all characteristics of the Chippendale period. The string inlay and the cockbeaded drawers foreshadow the Hepplewhite style and show that the maker knew the qualities of the latest style. The signature and the fact that Martin is listed at Lovely Lane in 1791 support the presumption that the chest was made between 1790 and 1795. Markowski is not aware of any other pieces by James Martin, though Weidman suggests that Martin may have made the pair of card tables (one shown) illustrated on page 175 of her book.Richard Opfer Auctioneering, Inc., Timonium, Maryland, September 26-27, 1998, sale of the Joe and Mary Archer estate. (www.maineantiquedigest.com)