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A fine Baltimore mahogany bowfront Federal sideboard

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Directory: Antiques: Furnishings: Furniture: American: Federal: Pre 1800: item # 1194472

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Chicora Antiques, Inc.
518 Autumn Circle
Columbia, South Carolina
18038343787

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 A fine Baltimore mahogany bowfront Federal sideboard
An exceptionally fine American Neo-classical mahogany and inlaid bow-front sideboard, circa 1790-1800, with pictorial inlays of bell-flowers, accentuated with pellet drops, the upper leg stiles tipped with shaded urn details, and ivory escutcheons, from the city of Baltimore, circa 1790-1800. The present sideboard is a quintessential archetype from Maryland that prominently displays the robust and pervasive influence that notable British designers had, such as Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite, on furniture styles and forms made throughout the state of Maryland and along Chesapeake Bay area. The sideboardís arrangement is distinctly Anglophile in its form and style. During the American Neo-classical era (1785-1820), the city of Baltimore had an great influx of British artisans, more so than did any other American urban center at that time. In fact, Baltimore itself is documented to have had a greater increase in general population than any other American city after the American Revolution. The city of Baltimore itself was once just a diminutive, but nevertheless, consequential trading center in the mid-eighteenth century, best known for its export of grain, no surprise, as it was quite conveniently located at the convergence of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay. What was once a wilderness, became a progressively important market for the commodities of Baltimore tradesmen of all sorts, and also a center for the importation of European goods. In the year 1770, Virginia diarist wrote that she had not heard of a single inhabitant who [did] not carry on a trade or follow some business there. With this rising trade, population, and inhabitants, Baltimore drew a large number of cabinetmakerís who were eager to fill the orders for the new found wealth of its inhabitants. Consequentially, like other wealthy urban areas, such as Charleston, New York, and Boston, this cabinetmaking trade was highly-competitive, and subsequentially, the products of these workshops were generally of a very high-standard. As amazing as it seems, in the last two decades of the eighteenth century, there were only six British born and trained cabinetmakers documented in that city, despite the fact that there were approximately thirty or so cabinetmakers listed in Baltimore at the time of this sideboard construction. Although these overseas immigrants were exceptionally small in number, their design influence was undoubtedly immense. Their workshops chararecteristics were enlightening, innovative, and entrepreneurial. These styles permeated the nearby vicinities such as Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Annapolis, but extended as far south to reach Charleston and as far north to influence Boston workshops. The sideboard described here is a filtration of all sorts of British tastes. The bow-front form enjoyed tremendous popularity in England during the same era as this piece was constructed. It is commonly seen on bureaus, pier tables, various case pieces, and even on seating furniture, specifically chair and sofa rails. The inclusion of the bookend inlays at the very top of each of the front-facings on the sideboard front legs is a migration of a style usually found in northern areas, such as New Jersey and New York City, as are the convex facings on either side of each lower door. Stylistically, this is atypical of Baltimore work and the only variant of the embellishments found on the sideboard. The intensely pronounced bell-flower details which garnish the front legs is somewhat similar to other known and documented Baltimore work, but it differs from the expected standard Baltimore bell-flower, of which several variants exists which do differ slightly from cabinetshop to cabinetshop. Baltimore was well-known and documented for having a great number of inlay specialists, whose sole work consisted of designing and creating extravagant inlays, much of which was employed by Baltimore cabinetshops, but it was also exported to other larger cities. The very pronounced and unusually large inverted bell-flower inlays in concert with the pellet drops trellising down the sideboardís legs is a bit of an anomaly to the author. The pellet-drop embellishment, often seen in conjunction with a bulls-eye inset is usually seen on pieces around the Philadelphia area, but it comes as no surprise to see its emergence in Baltimore as well. The vibrancy and contrast of these inlays is astounding, and is just what the maker intended.


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