American Decorative Arts
Maker Cabinetmaker: Stephen Badlam, American, 1751–1815
Carver: John Skillin, American, 1746–1800
Carver: Simeon Skillin, Jr., American, 1757–1806

Chest-on-Chest

1791

Mahogany; front of drawer in architrave, mahogany; other drawer fronts, mahogany veneer on chestnut; eastern white pine; bottom dustboard in lower case, red pine.

101 1/8 x 51 1/2 x 23 3/4 in. (256.9 x 130.8 x 60.3 cm) other (Upper case): 42 13/16 x 19 3/4 in.(108.7 x 50.2 cm) other (Lower case): 46 x 23 3/4 in.(116.8 x 60.3 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
1930.2003
Following the Revolution, some citizens sought domestic objects that would express in the most elaborate ways America’s pride in having achieved independence. Shipping magnate Elias Hasket Derby (1739–1799), a prominent citizen of Salem, Massachusetts, could well afford to do so. In commissioning this massive piece from Stephen Badlam, a war veteran from a town south of Boston, Derby took the unusual step of engaging leading Boston sculptors to carve figures for the pediment of the case. Rising to the challenge set by their patron, John Skillin and his brother Simeon created a scheme of three females in fashionable Neoclassical dress and distinctive accessories imbued with allegorical meaning. The figure on the left, holding an olive wreath and a palm frond, personifies Peace. On the right is Plenty, clasping a cornucopia. The central figure wears the gilt-sun brooch and laurel wreath associated with Virtue, while the Phrygian cap on a liberty pole is an attribute of Liberty. Through this combination of attributes, she represents America. Family tradition has it that Derby and his wife, Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby, gave this piece as a wedding present to their daughter Anstis, who married Benjamin Pickman, Jr., of Salem in 1789.
Culture: 
American
Period: 
18th century
Classification: 
Furniture
Geography: 
Made in Dorchester Lower Mills, Massachusetts
and made in Boston, Massachusetts
Status: 
On view*
Provenance: 

According to a family tradition, this chest-on-chest was presented by Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799) and his wife, Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby (1735-1799), of Salem, Mass., as a wedding present to their daughter Anstis Derby (1769-1836), who married Benjamin Pickman, Jr. (1763-1843), of Salem in 1789. The discrepancy between the date of marriage and the date of 1791 on the bill for the complete chest is usually explained by the theory that the chest was ordered as a wedding present but not completed and delivered until nearly two years later. Elias Hasket Derby's will (docket 7571, Essex County Probate Records, Essex County Courthouse, Salem, Mass.) makes mention of a bequest to Anstis and adds: "And I do in addition to the foregoing give and confirm unto my said daughter Anstis all and what I gave her at the time of her marriage." There are no probate records on file for Anstis Derby Pickman. In the inventory of the estate of Benjamin Pickman, Jr. (docket 50218), which was taken room by room, the only two possibilities that might refer to this object are a "Case Draws" in the "Middlechamber" valued at $12 and a "Case Draws" in the "Front Western Chamber" valued at $6. No mention of the object is made in Pickman's will of 1843. The next likely owner, however, is Pickman's daughter Martha (1802-1885), who married Samuel Baker Walcott (d. 1854) in 1829. The Walcotts seem to have divided their time between Salem and Hopkinton, N.H. No detailed specification of household goods is given in Samuel Walcott's estate papers (doct 56152), although he did own "furniture in house in Salem" valued at a total of $900. In his will, dated 1851, Samuel Walcott bequeaths all of his "furniture and household stuff of every kind" to his wife. Martha Pickman Walcott died in Salem in 1885. She left all of her "household furniture and good, silver and other plate, clothing and books, not enumerated and specified, in a memorandum in writing under [her] hand" to her daughter Elizabeth Packard, wife of Alpheus S. Packard. (The "Schedule of Legacies" bequeathed to her other children does not mention any object that could be the Yale chest.) Martha Walcott's household furniture at 133 Lafayette Street in Salem was valued at only $250 but was not itemized (docket 61881). The chest appears to have been owned by Elizabeth Derby Walcott Packard (1824-1929) and her husband Alpheus from about 1885 to 1919; they lived in Andover, Mass. Elizabeth Packard's will of 1906 (docket 162422) states: "All my household furniture, books, pictures, china, glass, silver, jewelry, and all other articles of household use or ornament, I give to my executor hereinafter named to be distributed by him among my children in accordance with directions which will be found among my papers at my death." This "List of articles to be distributed," however, makes no mention of the Yale chest, for it had already passed to her daughter and out of the family's hands. One of Elizabeth's beneficiaries was to be her daughter Martha W. Packard of Andover. Elizabeth's will specifies that Martha, acting on some misguided advice from her mother, made a bad investment and lost a considerable amount of money, a sum her mother felt obliged to repay. Elizabeth may have given her daughter the chest about 1919 as one way of repaying her, since the chest was sold in that year to New York dealer Charles Woolsey Lyon. An undated letter from Martha Walcott Packard to Francis P. Garvan gives the following family tradition: "This is the history as it has come to me from my mother: Elias Hasket Derby of Salem (my great-great-grandfather) had the chest made for his daughter Anstiss, when she married Benjamin Pickman, also of Salem, in 1789. It then belonged to their daughter, Martha, who married Samuel Baker Walcott in 1829. My mother inherited it and handed it on to me." Lyon sold the chest to Francis P. Garvan, New York, in 1919. Gift in 1930 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

Fiske Kimball, “Some Carved Figures by Samuel McIntire,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 18 (August 1923): 195, ill.

R. T. Haines Halsey and Charles O. Cornelius, A Handbook of the American Wing, 2nd (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925), 205.

Felice Davis, “American Furniture: The Second or Revolutionary Period in American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum,” Antiquarian 5 (September 1925): 12, ill.

William Farquhar Payson, ed., Mahogany, Antique and Modern (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1926), 117–18, ill.

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Mabel M. Swan, “A Revised Estimate of McIntire,” Antiques 20 (December 1931): 341, fig. 6.

Fiske Kimball, “Furniture Carvings by Samuel McIntire,” Antiques 19 (March 1931): 207–9, fig. 2–4.

Associates in Fine Arts, Yale University, “Handbook: A Description of the Gallery of Fine Arts and the Collections,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 5, nos. 1–3 (1931): 62, ill.

Homer Eaton Keyes, “Milton, Beverly, and Salem,” Antiques 23 (April 1933): 142, fig. 1.

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), 222–23, fig. 173.

Homer Eaton Keyes, “Editor’s Attic,” Antiques 31 (March 1937): 114, fig. 4.

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John Marshall Phillips, “Outstanding Examples from the Mabel Brady Garvan Collections,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 8, no. 2 (February 1938): 45, ill.

Sherrill Whiton, Elements of Interior Decoration, rev. ed. (Chicago: J. B. Lippincott, 1944), 264, ill.

Mabel M. Swan, “Boston’s Carvers and Joiners, Part I,” Antiques 53 (March 1948): 198, fig. 1.

Charles Nagel, Jr., American Furniture: 1650–1850 (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1949), 58, 65, pl. 24.

Edwin O. Christensen, Early American Wood Carving (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1952), 132.

Mabel M. Swan, “General Stephen Bedlam: Cabinet and Looking-Glass Maker,” Antiques 65 (May 1954): 380, ill.

Larry Freeman, Federal-Empire, 3 (Watkins Glen, N.Y.: Century House Americana, 1956), 2, 8.

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Helena Hayward, ed., World Furniture: An Illustrated History (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965), 195, fig. 726.

Wayne Craven, Sculpture in America (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968), n.p., fig. 1.7.

John Cornforth, “From Mayflower to Monroe: Yale University Furniture,” Country Life 155 (January 3–10, 1974): 25.

Tom Armstrong, 200 Years of American Sculpture (Boston: David R. Godine, 1976), n.p., fig. 123, 124.

Charles F. Montgomery and Patricia E. Kane, eds., American Art: 1750–1800 Towards Independence, exh. cat. (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976), n.p., [included in catalogue but not in exhibition], fig. 70.

Bernard Bailyn, The Great Republic (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, Inc., 1977), 228.

Carol Olsen, “Stylistic Developments of Ship Figureheads of the United States East Coast,” International Journal of Nautical Archeology and Underwater Exploration 8 (November 1979): 13.

Marvin D. Schwartz, “The Boston Heritage in Furniture,” Antique World 1 (October 1979): 91.

Patricia E. Kane, “American Furniture in the Yale University Art Gallery,” Antiques 117, no. 5 (June 1980): 1321, pl. VIII.

Joan Pearson Watkins Revocable Trust and Elizabeth Bidwell Bates, American Furniture:1620 to the Present (New York: Richard Marek Publishers, 1981), 200, ill.

Charles F. Montgomery, “Francis P. Garvan,” Antiques 121, no. 1 (January 1982): 247, fig. 4.

Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 56–57, ill.

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Dean T. Lahikainen, Samuel McIntire: Carving an American Style, 1st, exh. cat. (Salem, Mass.: Peabody Essex Museum, 2007), 61, References on p. 14, 52, and 60; detail of central figure, p. 87, fig. 3-78; detail of PL figure, p. 161, fig. 4-137., fig. 3-17.

Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 110–11, no. 53, 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.