High Chest of Drawers Maker: Unknown


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

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.


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)

Credit Line

Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

Accession Number



18th century


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 records is ongoing.



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.
  • Sotheby's, New York, The Acme of Perfection Tea Table, sale cat. (January 19, 2008), 20, fig. 1
  • Dennis Andrew Carr, American Colonial Furniture: Guide to the Collection, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2004), 13, 16, fig. 24
  • 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
  • Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 90, ill
  • 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
  • John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 150–51, fig. 386
  • Rick Mastelli, "In Search of Period Furniture Makers," Fine Woodworking (July–August 1980), 35, ill
  • Patricia E. Kane, "American Furniture in the Yale University Art Gallery," Antiques 117, no. 5 (June 1980), 1320, pl. 7
  • Charles F. Montgomery, "Francis P. Garvan: He Would Educate the Nation," Arts in Virginia 19 (Spring 1979), 14
  • Fine Woodworking 9 (Winter 1977), 31, 38, 42, ill. on front cover
  • 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 and Patricia E. Kane, eds., American Art: 1750–1800 Towards Independence, exh. cat. (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976), fig. 34
  • Charles F. Montgomery, "1776–How America Really Looked: Furniture," American Art Journal 7, no. 1 (May 1975), 59, ill
  • "American Arts and the American Experience," Museum News 53, no. 3 (November 1974), 39
  • Robert Bishop, How to Know American Antique Furniture (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973), 82, fig. 96
  • 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
  • Meyric R. Rogers, "Philadelphia via Dublin: Influences in Rococo Furniture," Antiques 79 (March 1961), 275, fig. 9
  • Meyric R. Rogers, "Garvan Furniture at Yale," Connoisseur Year Book, 1960 (1960), 59, fig. 12
  • "Outstanding Examples From the Mabel Brady Garvan Collections," Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 8 (February 1938), 44, ill
  • Edward Stratton Holloway, The Practical Book of American Furniture and Decoration: Colonial and Federal (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1937), n.p., pl. 35
  • 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
  • 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
  • Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), n.p., vol. 1, no. 363, ill
  • Charles O. Cornelius, Early American Furniture (New York: Century Co., 1926), pl. 28
  • "Henry V. Weil advertisement," Antiques (1925), 303, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

high chests of drawers


A chalk inscription, only partially legible, on the top of the top of the lower case appears to contain three separate words: the first word ends in "...bet", the second word is illegible, and the third word begins with "Dome..." The inside of the drawer fronts of the row of three drawers in line in the upper case are marked I, II, and III from left to right. There are chalk shop marks on the case.

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