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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

 


Culture:American
Title:chest
Date Made:after 1707
Type:Furniture
Materials:wood: white oak, yellow pine (replaced interior drawer elements and cleats).
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Hampshire County; Deerfield (probably)
Measurements:overall: 36 in x 45 3/4 in x 19 3/4 in; 91.44 cm x 116.205 cm x 50.165 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2006.7
Credit Line:Bequest of the Estate of Barbara Euston
2006-7t.jpg

Description:
Joined chest with a drawer, which is one of only a dozen or so surviving tulip-and-vine carved chests from Hampshire County, Massachusetts, and is inscribed with three initials, "IEN." The chest was probably made to mark the December 19, 1707 wedding of John Nims (1679-1762) and Elizabeth Hull (1688-1754), both of Deerfield. As there is no ‘J’ in the Latin alphabet, “I” was used in place of “J” until nearly the end of the 18th century. The chest descended in an unbroken line in the original owner's family to the donor. With its relief-carved decoration embellished with incised tendrils and traces of original black pigment on the carving’s drop-ground surfaces, this chest relates stylistically to other joined chests crafted in the Connecticut River Valley towns of Deerfield, Hatfield and Hadley between 1680 and 1740. The chest also still retains its full height.

Label Text:
By tradition, Connecticut River Valley families presented their daughters with gifts of textiles and furniture, including chests with drawers, to celebrate their marriages. Many of the 200+ surviving chests carved with tulip-and-leaf designs include the maiden-name initials of the women for whom they were made. Only a few are carved with three initials referencing both husband and wife under the husband’s surname. The Deerfield joiner who made this chest with drawer incorporated the initials “IEN” to mark the 1707 marriage of John and Elizabeth (Hull) Nims of Deerfield. Chests of this sort with carved tulip-and-leaf designs are sometimes called “Hadley chests,” a term Hartford, Connecticut, collector Henry Wood Erving coined in 1883 when he bought a joined, carved example from a family in Hadley, Massachusetts.

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