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!

The David  Rittenhouse astronomical and musical clock now in the collection of Drexel University in West Philadelphia has been called the “Most Important Clock in America”. It is a stunning achievement. The gearing calculations would have been difficult if Rittenhouse had access to modern computing technologies. That this work was done by hand calculation in 1770 is beyond belief to use mere mortals. The case commissioned to house it is an extraordinary achievement in design, woodworking, and carving as well. The Drexel Collection, free and open to the public, is well worth a visit. The clock and case can be seen in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery on the 3rd floor in the beautiful 3141 Chesnut Street main building. Recalling how similar the design and execution of the ornaments on the clock case are to the Batsto Furnace stove plate, I pulled out a set of photographs I made while attended the removal of the movement for cleaning and repair in 2005. If you can’t make it to Philadelphia or Drexel University, this can be the next best thing for now. All images will open in a new window when clicked. I will add images of the movement in a later post.

Go Dragons.






Foliate scroll.







Hood spandrel applique




Flower and ribbon carving on the lower moulding of the hood.


Complex gadrooning on the lower waist moulding.


Base with applique.


Base applique detail.


The case is over-size and the movement and weights are much heavier than a typical eight-day clock. Beefed-up glue blocks can be seen behind the foot facings.


Ken Finkel’s post on the “Rise and Fall of PhillyPalladian” on the PhillyHistoryBlog along with the upcoming Beer Mansion Mash at Mount Pleasant this Saturday encouraged a visit to the house this week to check on recent developments. There is a cleaned up and restored path on the back/river side of the house but most striking – the two tall trees which have obscured the view of the west façade since at least the early twentieth-century are gone!


Photographing the west side of the house that faces the Schuylkill River has been a challenge if you didn’t want two large trees masking the view.  You could work around them with wide-angle lens but couldn’t escape them in long views.

View of Mount Pleasant house from garden through railing of pagoda

View of Mount Pleasant through railing of a reproduction pagoda c. 1930.

leaves off

Even with the leaves off the trees the view of the Schuylkill River side of the house was marred.


Mark Reinberger in his recent book, “The Philadelphia Country House” was challenged photographing the less formal side of Mount Pleasant.


The setting sun lights up the west side of Mount Pleasant but the out of place trees distract.


Until at least the middle of the nineteenth-century the bluff leading down to the river was clear of trees. Even in the summer the river could be seen from the second story. It can still be viewed in the winter from the Venetian window as seen here in an image from five years ago, but today the river is completely obscured in summer.

During the eighteenth-century trees would never have been allowed to grow immediately behind the house as the views towards the house and to the river from inside the house would have been of fundamental importance to the owners and those they wished to impress.  Mount Pleasant’s Palladian or Venetian windows, constructed 10 years after the Venetian window on the State House stair tower which Thomas Nevell also worked on, are central to the history of domestic architecture in Philadelphia if not the American colonies. They are the earliest Venetian windows in Philadelphia for a private residence – and there are not one but two – designed using three Classical Orders –  creating the extraordinary architectural experience in second story hall.

I’m thrilled that I can now make the images I’ve always seen in my mind’s eye. Here are some of the first from this Wednesday.



3 quarters


In this blog I don’t write about my day-to-day work with the Dietrich American Foundation’s furniture collection that we are in the process of researching, photographing, and conserving. That will remain proprietary to the Foundation as we gear-up to go live with a website of the Foundation’s collection in the near future. Findings from the furniture survey will also hopefully find their way into publications in various formats. I have relied on my extra-curricular activities and earlier years involved in the conservation and restoration trade for material for posts. This post is a slight divergence.


Un-crating the D.A.F. Goddard family bureau at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Later this month the exhibition “Art and Industry in Early America, Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830” opens at the Yale University Art Gallery. The Dietrich American Foundation’s four-shell Goddard family bureau was loaned to the Art Gallery for the exhibition and I was in New Haven this week attending the bureau’s installation at the end of a line of four other three and four-shell bureaus made in Newport in the second half of the eighteenth century.


The line up of Newport three and four-shell bureaus.

“Daniel Goddard His Draugh” is written in white chalk on the back of the top long drawer.

chalk on top drawer

The back of the top shell drawer of the D.A.F. bureau.

Did Daniel participate in crafting the bureau, did he carve the shell drawer, or was he the owner? Was it made in Newport in the shops of the Goddards and Townsends or in Nova Scotia where Daniel appears to have moved sometime after 1779? The early provenance of the bureau is unclear, we can only go back to its discovery in London in 1968. It possibly left New England with Daniel Goddard when he moved from Newport to Nova Scotia. If that was the case, this is likely the first time the bureau has been in back New England in over two hundred and twenty-five years.


The D.A.F. bureau as you will see it in the exhibition.

You can read more about the bureau at the Rhode Island Furniture Archive here.

DAF Goddard

The D.A.F. Goddard family bureau.



Carving gouges with shoulders and the imprint of C. Maiers.

Responding recently to a question about the quality of carving gouges marked C. Maiers, I noticed that in the post I wrote two years ago about some of the C. Maiers tools I own and use I said I had never seen a C. Maiers tool with a shoulder. Since then I’ve acquired two Maiers carving gouges that do have bolsters and have seen images of several others. The first is one of the larger Maiers tools I’ve come across, a fishtail gouge with a 9/16″ cutting edge that is about a number 6 based on the Sheffield list of edge profiles. Second is a 1/4″ front bent gouge that corresponds to a number 29 on the list. What I still haven’t seen are C. Maiers carving gouges marked with numerals that link them to the Sheffield list.

bolster details

Detail of the shoulders.


The handle of the front bent C. Maiers gouge.


Two of the seven C. Maiers carving gouges in this lot for auction on ebay have shoulders.