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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

High Chest of Drawers
Mahogany, Atlantic white cedar, southern yellow pine, yellow poplar

94 3/8 x 46 1/2 x 30 5/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection
Gift of Miss Ima Hogg

Arts of North America

The 1754 publication The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director by Thomas Chippendale profoundly affected the development of American furniture design. The Director was the first important book devoted entirely to cabinetry and as such instructed both English and American cabinetmakers in the richest expressions of the Rococo idiom.

In his preface Chippendale noted, “Of all the Arts which are either improved or ornamented by Architecture, that of CABINET-MAKING is not only the most useful and ornamental, but capable of receiving as great Assistance from it as any whatever…,” a stance that is ably translated in this imposing high chest, with its quarter columns, cornice, dentils, and scrolled pediment, elements evocative of an 18th-century door frame. A classic American manifestation is the marriage of the late Baroque and the Rococo. By the mid-18th century the form was deemed old-fashioned in England, but in the colonies it persisted and reached its apogee in Philadelphia.