Dressing table or lowboy, 1745-1755
Photo courtesy of  Jay...
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Photo courtesy of Jay Robert Stiefel

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This dressing table is characteristic of the work of cabinetmakers Solomon Fussell (ca. 1704-1762) and his apprentice William Savery (1721/22-1787), both of whom Franklin patronized in the 1740's. The table has a rectangular top, a deep base containing one long drawer over two short, a serpentine skirt and cabriole legs ending in trifid feet. The rectangular two-board top has a shallow ogee-moulded edge and is notched at all four corners. Its overhang is deep on front, rear and sides. It is supported on front and sides by cavetto-moulded strips. The case is deep, with its canted front corners containing three flutes each. The front skirt is cut away in a series of bold serpentine curves that rise at the center to meet in a depending fishtail. The side skirts are cut away in a tighter series of centrally balanced serpentine curves. The front and side skirt edges are unornamented. The face of the long, shallow upper drawer is blocked in imitation of three drawers, and the pretense is carried further by the placement of three pulls, the central one of which has no function. The brasses are original, with "winged" escutcheons and shallow C-shaped bails. Note that one was installed upside-down, but has been in this position for so long that it has left a "ghost" on the drawer face. The edges of all three drawers are thumbnail-moulded. All four legs are cabriole. The knees of the two front legs have depending intaglio leaves or tongues, which descend 5 inches to slender points. The curve of the legs is shallow, the feet appearing to lift from the floor. Each of the front trifid feet (actually three "toes" and a "heel" that provide a stable termination) is emphasized by three 4 1/2-inch vertical bands. Note that the two rear legs are more fully formed than is conventional, with knee and foot moulded and projecting at an angle from the rear of the case. Construction: The piece appears to have had virtually no repair or restoration during its lifetime. The single backboard is laid horizontally, fixed by rose-headed nails to the edges of the rear stiles. There are no interior dustboards. The drawers are dovetailed at all joints, with the bottoms brought to the edges of the side walls and nailed (rosehead) rather than run in rabbets cut into the side walls. All surfaces are darkened from exposure to air and heat. The upper surface of the tabletop is smooth and reflective from frequent dusting. Otherwise, the exterior surfaces are matte, with slight crazing in places. There is marring and some surface loss on both rear legs.
Mr. Stiefel's generous assistance in the preparation of this entry is acknowledged with warm thanks.
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