One of Bill du Pont’s collecting focuses over the last decades was inlaid objects from Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware River Valley. Using the search term “inlaid” in the on-line catalogue of his collection to be sold in January 2022 at Sotheby’s turns up no less than 44 objects. If the inlaid metal objects – long rifles, flint tinderbox pistols, etc. – are removed from the list it leaves 34 wood objects of various forms – chests, boxes, cupboards, spice boxes, tables, a desk, a clock, and a cradle. The objects are inlaid with wood, sulfur, and brass. A slant-lid document box is inlaid with both wood and sulfur.
Eleven objects can be found searching for “line-and-berry.” A box, (lot 11), a two-part chest of drawers, (lot 174), and a chest-on-stand, (lot 505), were discussed in a previous post, “Lines and Dots,” where I speculated that a sub-set of line-and-dot objects made in Southeastern Pennsylvania may have been made in or near Philadelphia in the first quarter of the eighteenth-century based on their form, construction methods, and secondary woods, rather than in Chester County where the majority of line-and-dot inlaid furniture has heretofore been attributed.
When first published in Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania, 1680-1758, (Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 130, 142, no. 28, fig. 191) the two-part chest (lot 174), was attributed to Southeastern Pennsylvania, probably Chester County, c. 1725-45. In Sotheby’s catalogue, the attribution of the chest has been amended to the “Delaware River Valley, possibly Philadelphia, Circa 1720.”
Sotheby’s places the chest-on-stand (lot 505) in “Chester County or Delaware River Valley, Pennsylvania, Circa 1735.” (To clarify my use of Delaware River Valley, I do not use it in conjunction with “Pennsylvania.” I use the term to be inclusive of West New Jersey makers in a way the “Southeastern Pennsylvania” and Philadelphia” as places of origin do not. Furniture historians use place of origin terminology to place an object that is not signed or otherwise have documentation as to where it was made, to a more specific location than the broader regional distinction “Mid-Atlantic.” I understand this can be confusing with different writers using varying terminology for the same object.)
The box, (lot 11), shares the combined use of single and clusters of four dots and complicated stringing inlay designs as seen in the two-part chest and chest on stand. I believe this could warrant an attribution like that given to the two-part chest and chest on stand. Sotheby’s does not report the wood species of the bottom board of the box. In the photo on-line it does not appear to be yellow poplar and I suspect it is Atlantic white cedar or hard pine. We’ll see in January.
The on-line catalogue does not illustrate the tops of these three objects but the large area of the top boards, as well as the slant lid of the Dietrich American Foundation desk, allows for some of the the most elaborate and inventive line and dot designs produced in the Delaware River Valley. Interestingly, when any of this small group of objects with single and clusters of four dots and complicated stringing inlay designs comes to auction, the fact that their tops, in addition to the drawer fronts, have an inlay design is remarked upon as unusual as this is rarely seen on objects with line and dot inlay documented to Chester County. But when examined as a group it is entirely unremarkable as the top of every one of these objects has a lively, energetic inlay design. (To date, this group includes the three objects discussed above owned by Bill du Pont now at Sotheby’s, the desk in the collection of the Dietrich American Foundation, a chest of drawers in a private collection, sold at Pook & Pook, Inc., another chest of drawers in a private collection inlaid with the date 1706, a box in the collection of Winterthur Museum, and a spice chest sold at Pook & Pook, September 30, 2021.)