Attributed to John Goddard
Mahogany with chestnut and white pine
219.4 x 101.6 x 54.6 cm (86 3/8 x 40 x 21 1/2 in.)
The Helen Bowen Blair Fund, 1989.158
Along with Philadelphia and Boston, Newport, Rhode Island, was one of the three leading furniture-making centers in colonial America. Newport benefited from its location on coastal trade routes between England and the West Indies, and its merchants were among the wealthiest and most influential figures in the colonies. The finest Newport furniture came from the Goddard and Townsend shops, whose most notable pieces were completed before the Revolution. This high chest is attributed to John Goddard. Goddard's marriage to the daughter of Job Townsend joined the two families, beginning a virtual furniture-making dynasty that remained active into the following century.
The simplicity of design and relative lack of embellishment on the chest, appropriate to the austere values of the Quaker faith, is complemented by outstanding workmanship, attention to detail, and balanced proportions. One of the most expensive possessions in the household, the high chest was designed to resemble a piece of architecture. With its crowning pediment and finial, it resembles the façade of an 18th-century building. Features characteristic of Newport furniture include the distinctive scallop shell with wavy outline, the raised panels on the pediment, the "cupcake" finial, and the undercutting of the talons (claws) on the ball-and-claw feet. The graceful, curved silhouette of the chest, created by the bonnet-top pediment above and the cabriole legs below, characterized pre-Revolutionary colonial furniture.