An Important Inlaid Mahogany Antique Serpentine Chest of Drawers. by Joseph Rawson, Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1790-1800.
This finely proportioned antique serpentine chest of drawers was made by the celebrated Providence, Rhode Island cabinetmaker Joseph Rawson Sr. [1760-1835]. The antique chest of drawers, which is constructed of vibrantly grained mahogany with line inlaid garlands, is nearly identical to an example found in the White House collection. Joseph Rawson was a member of the prolific Providence cabinetmaking family that was in production from the 1740’s through the 1890’s. The eldest son of Grindal Rawson [1719-1803], Joseph trained in his father’s highly successful shop. His father was producing enough furniture that in 1800, it was necessary to employ the impressive number of twenty-five apprentices. The distinctive Rawson style of furniture produced during the last quarter of the 18th Century borrowed equal influence form Massachusetts and Newport examples. A signature characteristic of their early Federal furniture is the almost casual use of decorative line inlays in formal furniture. These embellishments are characterized by simple, organic forms used sparingly to lightly ornament their pieces. After completing his apprenticeship in the early 1780’s, Joseph Rawson became active in the family business and by 1789 had established his own workshop. His work continued into the 19th Century in the form of partnership with his sons. His sons in turn continued the family business until the 1890’s. The attribution of this antique serpentine chest to a founding member of this well known family, coupled with the successful proportions and fine materials, establish this chest as a superior example of the form. The chest of drawers has an overhanging serpentine top with a vibrant mahogany veneer and a cross banded and line inlaid edge. The serpentine drawer fronts are robustly constructed from thick laminated pine boards. The base of the chest has a stepped molding that mirrors the shape of the top, with blocked edges. This apron joins distinctive ogee bracket feet with raised and blocked returns and pad toes. This foot is the epitome of Rawson’s fusion of Massachusetts and Newport styles, each distinct form present at once.
Dimensions: Case width 39 ½” Width overall 42 ¼”; Height 33 ¾”; Depth 21 ¼”
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