This distinctive cherry high chest exhibits some characteristics associated with furniture produced in the New London, Connecticut area. Recent discoveries and scholarship have reassigned this piece and a group of related furniture to Hingham, cabinetmaker Elisha Cushing Jr. (1746-1829). Conveniently, this high chest is signed by an early owner who identifies himself and his locale “C.W. Prouty, Scituate” Caleb William Prouty (1810-1876) was a prominent and successful shipping merchant from Scituate, Massachusetts.
The high chest retains a warm old patina with a mellow historic surface. The chest is mounted with molded and steeply arched pediment terminating in carved disk-form rosettes. The crest frames a central plinth mounted with a brass ball and spire finial above an inlaid Phylphot device. The outer corners of the pediment have fluted plinth (chimney) blocks mounted with inverted, vase-turned wooden posts, which are in turn mounted with brass ball and spire finials. This unique treatment, with brass finials raised on turned wooden bases can be found on a handful of Cushing pieces. See illustrations of related high chests below. The front corners of the case are mounted with stop-fluted pilasters. An applied molding interrupts the pilaster at the top and bottom creating the effect of capitals and bases.
The high chest consists of three short drawers above four graduated long drawers. The row of short drawers has two canted outer drawers flanking a large central drawer with an attractive radiant fan carving. The upper case transitions to the base with a conforming stepped molding. The base section has one long drawer above three short rectangular drawers. The large central drawer in the base has a matching radiant fan carving. The drawers are mounted with period post and bail pulls and oval lock escutcheons. The base has a stepped and notched apron with large acorn drops joining tall cabriole legs. The legs have a delicate cabriole form with dramatic carved volutes on the front returns. The legs terminate in Queen Anne pad feet raised on disks.
This chest was discovered at the very end of our research for Harbor & Home, Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts 1710-1850. At the time the book was published, this piece and a few others were attributed to the “Scituate area” due to their local histories. Scituate (pronounced sit-chew-it) is just a few miles down the coast from Hingham. The family history of this piece, along with the discovery of the owner’s signature and locale initiated further research from which several related pieces were discovered. These pieces include a desk and bookcase, a chest on chest, three other tall chests and several tall case clocks, all of which are now attributed to Elisha Cushing Jr. of Hingham. These examples were discussed in an article published in an article in The Magazine Antiques, May 2009, entitled, “Furniture Making in Massachusetts: Two Plymouth County Discovers”; Brock Jobe & Gary Sullivan. That article carefully details of the construction and design features of the pieces attributed to Elisha Cushing Jr. and how the authors arrived at the attribution.
Dimensions: Height including center finial: 84”; Width 42 ⅜”; Depth 20 ¼”