Chest of drawers

Needham, Thomas, Jr., 1755-1787
Salem, Essex county, Massachusetts, United States
Physical Description:
36 1/2 x 44 1/4 x 24 1/4 in.
Mahogany (primary); cedar (secondary); pine (secondary); brass (hardware)
Sack catalogue description: Original catalogue description (May 1979) – Chippendale mahogany claw-and-ball foot serpentine-front bureau, the drawers with mottled figured grain, beaded borders and fitted with bold pine tree brasses; the canted pilaster corners have deep fret carving in star punch or snowflake background, the sides flare out to meet the fretted pilasters and together with the pilasters are hewn from the solid, original side carrying handles; the case is supported on four superbly carved claw-and-ball feet and knee brackets, the carving in star-punched background, the finely sculptured claw-and-ball feet with swept-back talons and etched carving; the center pendant is a carved cartouche with carving rivaling the best of Philadelphia, the drawer linings are cedar and the dust boards dividing each drawer are a rare feature in New England case pieces, the piece retains its superb original finish; the legs and pendant are supported by massive contoured pine blocks (every one original). Inscribed on the base is the contemporary inscription, "T N 1783"; study of documents in the Essex Institute lends substance to an attribution to Thomas Needham, Jr., who fashioned furniture for Elias Hasket Derby in 1783. This bureau was first purchased by Israel Sack in 1911; it was repurchased by him three times during his career and has been repurchased by us from the children of its former owner. We consider this to be among the supreme achievements of the New England artisans; magnificent in its scope and sweeping contours, it combines the dynamism of form, the skill of the master craftsman and the master carver into a magnificent original conception. Updated catalogue description (1979) – Owned five times by the firm of Israel Sack since its first purchase by Israel Sack in 1911 for $150, this superlative example, almost unique in America in its majesty and form, had made not only investment history but is an excellent example of how present-day scholarship has traced it to its original creator. Its only counterpart is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Karolik collection), where in the 1940s it was catalogued as of Philadelphia origin; the great advance in regional studies has placed these pieces to the region in which, in the light of present-day knowledge, they obviously belong – namely, Massachusetts. By the very nature of its carved details this piece and its counterpart in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston were attributed to Cogswell of Boston, but a photographic discovery revealed the signature of "T N" and a date of 1783. Further study showed the initials to be that of Thomas Needham, Jr., who indeed made furniture for Elias Hasket Derby of Salem in 1783. So another notch in regional attribution and authorship has been added by this generation, and its provenance has been shifted to Salem from Boston and its authorship from Cogswell to Needham, Jr.
Related objects: Website: (accessed June 20, 2014).
Bibliography: Book: American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1990), vol. 6, p. 27, 1656–1659, pl. 4763.
YUAG catalogue note: The related high chest attributed to Thomas Needham, Jr., in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is object 41.578. An accompanying note written by Israel Sack in the Israel Sack Furniture Archive states: "In the year 1911 I purchased this bureau for $150. I sold it to Emil Mollenhauer for $350. In the year 1915 I bought it from Mr. Mollenhauer for $750. I sold it to Mrs. Washburn for $1,000. In the year 1930 I bought it from the Washburn estate for $5,000. I sold it to a New Jersey dealer (Willoughby Farr) for $6,500. In the year 1935 I bought it back from the New Jersey dealer for $6,500 and sold it to Mr. Cluett for $7,500." Updated records written by Albert Sack record that the chest of drawers was purchased from the Cluett family in 1978 by Israel Sack, Inc., and sold to a private collector in Texas in 1979.
Variant Titles:
Chippendale mahogany serpentine-front bureau
Decoration and ornament -- Chippendale style
Furniture -- United States
Accession Number:
bureaus (chests of drawers) (AAT)
Physical Object
Content Type:
Furnishings & Decorative Arts
Prints & Photographs
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Access Restrictions:
Source Title:
Israel Sack, Inc., Archive
Source Created:
New York, New York, United States
Source Note:
Sack, May 1979; Sack, 1979
This information is taken from the Israel Sack Furniture Archive and may not reflect current scholarship.
Folder 10718 cab4dr1 tif
Yale Collection:
Yale University Art Gallery
Digital Collection:
Israel Sack Furniture Archive
oid pointer:

Number of Pages: 7
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