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American Decorative Arts

High Chest of Drawers


American black walnut; drawer sides, dustboards, other elements, yellow poplar; drawer bottoms, backs, Atlantic white cedar; bottom of upper case, a backboard of lower case, southern yellow pine

96 3/4 × 45 1/2 × 23 11/16 in. (245.7 × 115.5 × 60.1 cm)
other (Lower case): 43 3/8 × 21 13/16 in. (110.2 × 55.4 cm)
other (Upper case): 41 5/16 × 20 5/8 in. (105 × 52.4 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
Philadelphia cabinetmakers produced the most exuberant and elaborate American rococo furniture, and the high chest of drawers was their most complex and ambitious form. This example and its matching dressing table (also in the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection) are noteworthy for the carefully chosen wood and the liveliness of the carving. The craftsman who ornamented these pieces was the most prolific carver working in Philadelphia in the mid-eighteenth century, but his identity is not known. He is referred to as the “Garvan carver” because of the stellar quality of his work on the Yale examples.
Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Owned in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
On view*
18th century

High chest and matching dressing table (1930.2001) have a history of ownership by Henry Wynkoop (1737-1816) and his wife Susanna Wanshaer Wynkoop (d. 1776), who were married in 1761, of Bucks County, Pa. in Wynkoop's will, dated 7 October 1813, he bequeathed to his daughter Christina several objects including his "black walnut chest with drawers, dressing table & chairs."(1) Christina Wynkoop (1763-1841) married Dr. Reading Beatty (1757-1831) in 1786, and according to tradition the objects passed to their daughter Mary (b. 1798). Mary Beatty married the Reverend Robert Steel (1794-1862) of Abingdon, Pa., and was still living in 1873. By tradition, the objects passed to her daughter Mary (b. 1839), who married Dr. Samuel D. Harvey of Jenkintown, Pa., in 1863. Objects then passed to their daughter in the fifth generation, Mary Steel Harvey (b. 1864), of Baltimore, Md. Miss Harvey sold the dressing table and high chest to dealer Henry V. Weil, New York, possibly in 1925; Weil sold the pair to Francis P. Garvan, New York. Gift in 1930 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Fine Woodworking 9 (Winter 1977): 31, 38, 42, ill. on front cover.

“Henry V. Weil advertisement,” Antiques (1925): 303, ill.

Charles O. Cornelius, Early American Furniture (New York: Century Co., 1926), pl. 28.

Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), n.p., vol. 1, no. 363, ill.

Theodore Sizer, “The Mabel Brady Garvan Collection of American Arts and Crafts,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 4 (December 1930): 110, ill.

R. T. Haines Halsey and Elizabeth Tower, The Homes of Our Ancestors as Shown in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1935), 68–70, fig. 53.

Edward Stratton Holloway, The Practical Book of American Furniture and Decoration: Colonial and Federal (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1937), n.p., pl. 35.

“Outstanding Examples From the Mabel Brady Garvan Collections,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 8 (February 1938): 44, ill.

Meyric R. Rogers, “Garvan Furniture at Yale,” Connoisseur Year Book, 1960 (1960): 59, fig. 12.

Meyric R. Rogers, “Philadelphia via Dublin: Influences in Rococo Furniture,” Antiques 79 (March 1961): 275, fig. 9.

John T. Kirk, Early American Furniture: How to Recognize, Evaluate, and Care for the Most Beautiful Pieces: High Style, Country, Primitive and Rustic (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), 31–33, fig. 17, 18.

Robert Bishop, How to Know American Antique Furniture (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973), 82, fig. 96.

“American Arts and the American Experience,” Museum News 53, no. 3 (November 1974): 39.

Charles F. Montgomery, “1776–How America Really Looked: Furniture,” American Art Journal 7, no. 1 (May 1975): 59, ill.

Charles F. Montgomery and Patricia E. Kane, eds., American Art: 1750–1800 Towards Independence, exh. cat. (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976), fig. 34.

Virginia B. Geyer, “Further Notes on Henry Wynkoop,” Bucks County Historical Society Journal 1 (Fall 1976): 4.

Charles F. Montgomery, “Regional Preferences and Characteristics in American Decorative Artts: 1750-1800,” Antiques 109, no. 6 (June 1976): 1204, fig. 7.

Charles F. Montgomery, “Francis P. Garvan: He Would Educate the Nation,” Arts in Virginia 19 (Spring 1979): 14.

Patricia E. Kane, “American Furniture in the Yale University Art Gallery,” Antiques 117, no. 5 (June 1980): 1320, pl. 7.

Rick Mastelli, “In Search of Period Furniture Makers,” Fine Woodworking (July–August 1980): 35, ill.

John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 150–51, fig. 386.

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), 44, 226–27, 235, 280–83, 287, 462, no. 147, pl. 14.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 90, ill.

Jonathan Prown and Richard Miller, “The Rococo, the Grotto, and the Philadelphia High Chest,” American Furniture (1996): 120, detail of lower front carving illustrated, fig. 25.

Dennis Andrew Carr, American Colonial Furniture: Guide to the Collection, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2004), 13, 16, fig. 24.

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.