high chest of drawers

 
Nationality
American
Creation date
Materials
walnut
Dimensions
98 x 43-1/4 x 22-1/4 in.
Credit line
Gift of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Indiana
Accession number
75.99
Collection
Currently On View In
William L. Fortune Gallery - K211
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Called a highboy or tallboy, this high chest is a classic example of the Philadelphia Chippendale style, which emerged during the Revolutionary War period. Philadelphia was the largest city in the American colonies, and a tremendous housing boom was fueling an explosion in the demand for furniture. Philadelphia’s cosmopolitan residents were aware of the latest styles from abroad, especially the work of the English cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale, who in 1754 had published a hugely successful book of his furniture patterns titled The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director. Chippendale’s designs were very influential in the colonies, but growing political tensions with England obliged Philadelphians to purchase furniture from local makers, who adapted Chippendale’s patterns to suit the tastes and traditions of their American clients.

The tallboy, a long-legged chest of drawers used to store clothing and table linens, became very popular during this period. With its high scroll pediment, flame finials, and shell motifs, this piece is a prime example of the preeminent Philadelphia type. It is a gift of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Indiana, whose numerous donations have enriched the IMA’s collection of American decorative arts.