This chest-on-chest survives with its original sea-horse finial and is a masterpiece of Hartford County cabinetmaking. Demonstrating masterful proportions and a sculptural facade, it combines elements first employed by Eliphalet Chapin and passed down by him to his cousin, Aaron Chapin, as well as other cabinetmakers who apprenticed under him. The example offered here is nearly identical to one also attributed to Aaron Chapin and illustrated in Thomas P. Kugelman, Alice K. Kugelman, Robert Lionetti, Connecticut Valley Furniture: Eliphalet Chapin and his contemporaries 1750-1800, Hartford, CT: The Connecticut Historical Society, 2005, p. 367, cat. No. 168. Both chest-on-chests share several individual characteristics as to strongly suggest that they were made by the same maker; these features include the treatment of the cornice scrolls, a complex two-piece mid-molding which has been nailed from the inside, cock-beading that runs on the upper-case drawer fronts and lower-case drawer surrounds, and small quadrant blocks.
The top board of the bottom case is faintly inscribed in graphite Rush Cheney Esq / SO Manchester; Rush Cheney was born in 1815, well after this chest was likely to have been made. Possible prior owners include Rush's parents, George Cheney and Electa Woodbridge, who married in 1798 in Manchester and who could have acquired this piece around the time of their wedding. Alternatively, this chest-on-chest may have been owned originally by Timothy Cheney and Mary Olcott or Deodatus Woodbridge and Esther Welles, Rush's paternal and maternal grandparents. The probate inventory done at the time of Timothy Cheney's death on 27 Sept 1795 lists a Case Draws £5-; this is one of the most costly items on the inventory and is equivalent to a desk and bookcase also valued at £5; other presumably smaller chests are valued at or less than £1. Documents relating to the estates of Rush's parents and other grandparents do not survive or do not mention any pieces likely to have been this one.
The Cheney family was prominent in Manchester, Connecticut, particularly in the second quarter of the19th century, when it established a large silk mill; it was their textile plants that eventually formed a large industrial center once referred to as "Cheneyville" and which now forms the Manchester Historic District.
Literature: Ginsburg & Levy, Inc., advertisement, The Magazine Antiques March, 1960, p. 231 Cited in William N. Hosley, The Great River: art & society in the Connecticut Valley,1635-1820, Hartford, CT: The Wadsworth Atheneum, 1985, pp. 231-232, cat. No. 112, endnote 5.
Provenance: Possibly first owned by Timothy Cheney (1731-1795) or George W. Cheney (1771-1829) and Electra Woodbridge (1781-1858) Rush Cheney (1815-1882), grandson of Timothy Cheney, son of George Cheney Anne Wells Cheney (1849-1944), daughter Cheney Historical Foundation, Manchester, Connecticut Ginsburg & Levy Inc., New York, NY Acquired by the current owner in 1960
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