Thomas Nevell’s copy of the Carpenters’ Company Articles and Rules for Measuring and Valuing House-Carpenters Work, published in 1786, is an anomaly. As printed on the book plate, copies were loaned to members and were required to be returned to the Company at the time of their death. Indeed, the minutes of the Company record the actions of Company members visiting widows of deceased Carpenters’ Company members to retrieve copies of the Articles and Rules so they would not fall into the hands of non-members.  Nevell’s personal copy is annotated with prices that would have been copied from a master book of prices at Carpenters’ Hall making it an invaluable research tool for historians. But was Nevell’s copy returned to the Carpenters’ Company before at the time of his death? We don’t know the answer because the copy of the Articles and Rules lent to Nevell cannot be located, all we have is the lucky circumstance of it being photographed by the Historic American Buildings Survey for the Library of Congress sometime in the mid-20th century. When Erin Kuykendall Thomas was working on her thesis on the working world of Thomas Nevell in 2010 we assumed it would be found at one of three locations: The Carpenters’ Company library at Carpenters’ Hall, the American Philosophical Society where many of the records of the Carpenters’ Company are on deposit, or the Library of Congress.  But Ms. Thomas’s extensive research at the APS and Carpenters’ Hall and communication with librarians at the Library of Congress failed to turn up Nevell’s copy. Charles Peterson, F.A.I.A.. who wrote about finding an old packing crate containing some copies of the Articles and Rules while rummaging in the attic of Carpenters’ Hall, and would write the introduction and annotate the modern reprint of the Articles and Rules that is still in print, does not mention Nevell’s copy and it is unclear if he knew of its existence. So, we don’t know if Nevell’s copy was returned as per the by-laws of the Company. While it cannot be located today for examination or display we at least have the photographic plates made from it and with the digital world upon us, they are now available to the public for all to examine. You can find it here.





Plan of Carpenters’ Hall




This urn and flowers cartouche from a chest on chest was carved in Philadelphia c.1775. The chest was sold at Sotheby’s in 2008. These photos were made during the auction preview. I’ve recently been teaching classes on carving a basket and flowers cartouche. The flowers, carved from a separate block of wood, were identical in both versions. The nicely carved flower in excellent condition on this cartouche provides additional information for carving the flower for the basket cartouche.


Urn and flower cartouche, Philadelphia, c. 1775.


Back of the cartouche. the hole left from the carvers screw can be seen just above the white adhesive label.


Side view of the cartouche. The base of the cartouche is a vertically grained 2 inch block. The flower is a horizontally grained 2 inch block glued to the base.


Detail of the urn with a nail punch used on the background at the center.


Flower detail.


Top view.

side flower

Side detail of the flower.


An urn and flowers cartouche I made over 15 years ago for a Philadelphia chest c. 1770 missing its original. Before finish was applied.

In 2011 the administrators of Strawberry Mansion, a historic house open the public about a mile north of Mount Pleasant in East Fairmount Park, sold a clock at auction they deemed inconsistent with their furnishing plan. I had the chance to photograph the clock before the auction.


Hood of the clock case.



Detail of the hood.



Detail of the hood.



Detail of the hood.



Three quarter view, front



Detail of the hood.



Three quarter view, back.



The clock dial. “William Anderson, Lancaster” is engraved along the top of the arch. Lancaster, in the district of Lancashire, England is about 50 miles north of Liverpool.

There is much more to see at the Yale University Art Gallery than Rhode Island furniture. The reinstalled Gallery was opened in 2012 after a multi-year renovation and expansion.


17th and early 18th centuries American Decorative Art gallery. Most furniture throughout the galleries now sits on the wood floors.


There are several architectural settings that you move through. This room is from the Rowley House, Gilead, Connecticut.


Carved detail in the built-in cupboard.


The bottom of the summer beam has an incised vine carving.


Windsors in the Rowley Room. A low riser painted a contrasting color from the walls.


Mid-18th century gallery. There is spotlighting in the galleries but also large windows letting in natural side-lighting and architectural details on the walls and at the cornice line.


The Garvan from whom all Garvan’s flow.


Most museum visitors have never experienced a high chest sitting on the floor rather than a 6 – 10 inch riser.


Kimball and Cabus Parlor Cabinet, New York, c.1880.


Detail of the Parlor Cabinet.


Like the Parlor Cabinet and many other objects, this table entered the collection after Ward and Barquist published the furniture at Yale.




Top detail.


Murals from the Huntington Mansion, New York, on public view for the first time. Elihu Vedder (1836-1923), Abundance of the Days of the Week.


Drawing room mural, Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848-1936). While visiting Blashfield’s studio as he worked on the mural his friend Mark Twain famously commented, “Well, I don’t know who they are, but I wish I was up there with them, and dressed the same.”


As you get older you start to run across friend’s work in the hallowed galleries of renowned art museums. Wood, metal and diamond brooch by Sharon Church, Philadelphia.


The other side of getting older and walking through decorative art or design galleries is that you’ll likely run across your mom’s vacuum. We had this vacuum all the time I was growing up. If there was ever a problem with it, there was a guy at the corner shop who fixed it good as new.


Henry Dreyfuss phone model 302. This looks like the thermoplastic body version.


Here’s mine. It’s in much better condition than Yale’s and is the first produced metal body version. If you call my house, this is how I take your call.



Last week I attended the Oswaldo Rodriquez Roque Lecture and Symposium held in conjunction with the Art and Industry in Early America exhibition of Rhode Island furniture at the Yale University Art Gallery and was able to tour the exhibit over several days. You can listen to the opening keynote and view other videos concerning other aspects of the exhibition here.


A powerful group of 17th century Newport furniture.


A rare survival.



A highly detailed version of thumbnail carving on the chest that I’ve not seen before.


Early 18th century veneered Rhode Island case work.


Providence and Newport mid-18th century chests, desks, and clocks.


Dis-assembled Townsend high chest.


Winterthur’s John Goddard tea table.


Hall of chairs. Made in Newport? Made in Boston? Made in Newport by a chair-maker who relocated from Boston? Round 4 no doubt coming soon.


The Stuart painting featuring a Goddard tea table. Or dogs, depending on your inclinations.



Pat Kane in front of the wall of signed bureaus leading a tour of the exhibition for Friends of the Yale University Art Gallery on the Saturday after the symposium.


Pat had a big turn out for the tour and it was being Facebooked in real time.


That’s an enormous amount of Rhode Island furniture in one place so I was delighted to come across a wonderful Philadelphia piece of furniture in the last gallery, a bench by Michael Hurwitz.

More information about future tours and events surrounding the exhibit can be found here. The catalogue is now available here.

I was pleased to be asked to speak at the Foundation for Appraisal Education annual conference this weekend at Freeman’s. This years theme is fakes and forgeries in the art market. It’s an impressive line-up of speakers with at least three of us dealing with the furniture trade.


Recently scams have rocked the art world and the big money involved has has created a situation rare in the trade – complaints were brought and individuals went on trial.

The conference is only open to professional appraisers who gain credit for attending. I believe this seminar could sell out multiple times if open to the public. It’s rare for institutions to take on this topic though there have been museum exhibitions dedicated to fakes in the past. Bravo to Freeman’s for taking this on for for all of the speakers for agreeing to tell their stories and discuss the issues in public.


gentle art

Cescinsky’s The Gentle Art of Faking Furniture, 1931.


Armand LaMontange’s famous Great chair fake at the Henry Ford Museum.


The typical reaction of dealers and decorators when fakes and frauds are discovered in the marketplace – “I’m shocked, shocked, that there are fakes going on here.” Don’t let that be you!