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Dressing Table

1949.192 (RS32613)


Dressing table. Black walnut with ash and maple veneer. Herring bone and plain bands surround. Thumbnail molded edge. Five-drawer case, two shallow over two deep flanking shallow center drawer. Case and drawers burl veneered. Skirt has ogee arches with inverted points and replaced urn drops. Pine sides decorated with dark daubed paint. Rests on cabriole legs with cushioned pad feet. Rear legs point forward. Back painted red.


Daubed paint ornaments the sides and soft maple legs of this dressing table, made about 1735-1745 in Boston or Essex County, Massachusetts. The table's cabinetmaker applied the spots of paint to convey the impression that the sides and legs had the same burled black walnut veneer that was applied to the drawers. Craftsmen used thin figured veneers as an economizing measure that enabled them to showcase the decorative material in select areas rather than produce the entire furniture carcass from one expensive wood. Paint offered an even more economical means to create the impression of decorative wood.
Dressing tables were used as bedroom or chamber furniture, usually with a looking glass or mirror and chair. Often placed between windows to take advantage of the light, dressing tables were where men and women made themselves ready to face the world. They were often covered with cloths or carpets and held matching sets of combs, pin cushions, boxes, cosmetics, and even writing implements.
Like many case pieces made in the first half of the eighteenth century, this example uses expensive showy veneers on the drawer fronts and top. Veneers could not be used on curved legs and would have been costly on the sides. Instead the maker of this dressing table ornamented the legs and sides with daubed paint. Only one other period example with this type of decoration is known. This dressing table is now on display at the Winslow Crocker House in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.
Associated Building
Original to Winslow Crocker House (Yarmouth Port, Mass.).
ash (wood)
black walnut (wood)
eastern white pine (wood)
maple (wood)
Object type
Possibly Essex county (Massachusetts) [county]
Possibly Massachusetts (United States)
Probably Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
Descriptive terms
ash (wood)
black walnut (wood)
case furniture
dressing tables
eastern white pine (wood)
maple (wood)
Table, Dressing
tables (support furniture)
31 1/8 x 32 1/4 x 20 1/3 (HxWxD) (inches)
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Mary Thacher