About this artwork
Marking the height of the “modern Gothic” style in Philadelphia, this sideboard resembles the furniture designed by notable architect Frank Furness, who frequently collaborated with cabinetmaker Daniel Pabst. Although details of the piece’s carving tie it unmistakably to Pabst, the design cannot be attributed conclusively to a particular hand. The designer was influenced by the writings of Christopher Dresser and Charles Eastlake, British reformers who advocated honesty of construction and conventionalized ornament. Instead of carving the decoration deeply in order to achieve a naturalistic effect, Pabst used a cameo technique, cutting through the burled elm veneer to reveal the darker walnut beneath and creating a striking color contrast and flattened style of decoration.
In the mid-nineteenth century, dining-room furniture typically featured ornament that was intended to reinforce ideals of hospitality and gentility. Here the cabinet doors display designs recounting Aesop’s fable of the fox and the stork, a tale in which each animal offers the other some food in a serving dish from which the guest cannot eat, thus proving the importance of true hospitality. The panels are virtually identical to images found on curtain designs illustrated in Eastlake’s 1868 book Hints on Household Taste, a text that was widely influential in the United States.
- Daniel Pabst (Maker)
- c. 1868–1880
- Walnut and burled elm
- 256.5 × 185.4 × 62.2 cm (101 × 73 × 24 1/2 in.)
- Gift of the Antiquarian Society