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American Decorative Arts
Maker: Jonathan Gostelowe, American, 1745–1795

Chest of Drawers

ca. 1789

Mahogany; drawer linings, other elements, yellow popular; backboards, Atlantic white cedar; some blocks, southern yellow pine.

41 1/4 × 57 1/4 × 27 1/8 in. (104.8 × 145.4 × 68.9 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
1930.2503
This monumental chest of drawers and its associated dressing glass (1930.2504) were made by the Philadelphia cabinetmaker Jonathan Gostelowe for his second wife, Elizabeth Towers, upon their marriage on April 19, 1789. The understated English-style, serpentine-front chest with canted, fluted corners is brilliantly accented by the peacock drawer pulls. The swinging glass is one of the most elaborate examples that can be documented to an eighteenth-century American craftsman.
Geography: 
Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
18th century
Classification: 
Furniture
Provenance: 

According to tradition, this chest of drawers and an accompanying dressing glass and stand (1930.2504), also now at Yale, were made by Philadelphia cabinetmaker Jonathan Gostelowe as a gift to his second wife, Elizabeth Howell (Towers) Gostelowe (d. 1808), on the occasion of their marriage on 19 April 1789 (cat. 66a). (An original pale-blue silk pincushion with "JG" and "ET" formed by cut steel pins is still in place in the center of the top drawer of the dressing-glass stand, lending credence to tradition.) The objects descended from Gostelowe to his wife, who remarried in 1798, to Mathew Locke; to her sister, Sarah Tower Evans (d. 1815); to her son, Robert Tower Evans (1780-1858) (the chest of drawers is noted as a "bureau" in the second-story back chamber of Evan's house in the 1859 inventory of his estate, and the dressing glass and stand were located in the third-story entry and identified as a "stand"); to Evan's daughter, Martha Postrema Evans (d. 1895); to her niece, Eliza Ferguson Evans Fraser (d. 1920), and her husband John, Brandywine Manor, Pa., and, finally, to their daughter, Martha Fraser North. In 1920, Mrs. North sold the objects to a dealer in Media, Pa., who in turn sold them to dealer Mrs. Gertrude H. Camp, Whitemarsh, Pa. The chest and dressing glass and stand were acquired at auction in 1929 by Francis P. Garvan, New York. Gift 1930 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

Clarence W. Brazer, “Jonathan Gostelowe,” Antiques 6, no. 9 (June 1926): 386–89, fig. 3, 4.

Clarence W. Brazer, “Jonathan Gostelowe,” Antiques 2, no. 10 (August 1926): 108, ill.

“The Hayloft advertisement,” Antiques 10, no. 1 (July 1926): 10, ill.

“The Hayloft advertisement,” Antiques 14, no. 4 (October 1928): inside back cover, ill.

Anderson Galleries, New York, Antique American and English Furniture sold by order of Mrs. Gertrude H. Camp., sale cat. (April 6, 1929), lot. 173.

“Varied Offerings at the Auctions,” Good Furniture Magazine (March 1929): 163, fig. 12.

Thomas H. Ormsbee, The Story of American Furniture (New York: MacMillan Company, 1934), 72–73, illus. 26.

Thomas H. Ormsbee, “Three Pieces Show Gostelowe’s Individuality,” American Collector 13, no. 1 (June 1934): 3, ill.

Helen Comstock, The Concise Encyclopedia of American Antiques, 2 vols. (London: The Connoisseur, 1958), 76, pl. 39B.

Meyric R. Rogers, “The Mabel Brady Garvan Collection of Furniture,” Yale Alumni Magazine 25, no. 4 (January 1962): 11, ill.

Marshall B. Davidson, The American Heritage History of Colonial Antiques (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1967), 209, fig. 280.

Patricia E. Kane, “American Furniture in the Yale University Art Gallery,” Antiques 117, no. 5 (June 1980): 1318, fig. 5.

John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 502, fig. 499.

Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1988), 123, 146–48, no. 66, ill.

Deborah Anne Federhen, “The Serpentine-front Chests of Drawers of Jonathan Gostelowe and Thomas Jones,” Antiques 133, no. 5 (May 1988): 1178, fig. 7.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 91, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.