Harbor & Home

A major discovery was made just as the catalogue for Harbor and Home was going to press. A late eighteenth-century bonnet-top high chest of angular proportions and crisply carved detail resembled furniture from New London County, Connecticut. But after a handful of related pieces surfaced, the team concluded that it was almost certainly the work of a Scituate area craftsman. Its surprising mix of influences has prompted further investigation by Sullivan and Jobe, whose latest findings will appear in an article in the May 2009 issue of Antiques.

The objects illustrated here offer a taste of what the exhibition has to offer. Arranged on two large second-floor galleries at Winterthur, it includes ninety pieces of furniture along with a colorful assortment of paintings, portraits, sailors’ art, ship furniture, maps, prints, and photographs—altogether a remarkable blend of the broad trends and individual discoveries Jobe and his team were able to document in their multiyear investigation. “One of Harbor and Home’s major contributions is to open the door to some very intriguing objects that otherwise might not be seen. This is not a survey drawn from the collections of the country’s largest decorative arts museums,” Jobe observes, adding that when he first contemplated a major study of southeastern Massachusetts furniture, he wondered whether he would have enough material. Knocking on doors and poring through storerooms and attics have convinced him and his fellow scholars that they have barely scratched the surface. “These projects have a way of living forever,” he says. “I hope that Harbor and Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710–1850 focuses attention on the region and brings other pieces out of the woodwork. Avenues for further research abound for all with the interest to pursue them.”

Harbor and Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710–1850 is on view at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware from March 21 through May 25, 2009. It then travels to Nantucket, where it may be seen at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum from July 2 to November 2. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, Winterthur is hosting the 2009 Sewell C. Biggs Furniture Forum on Thursday and Friday, April 16 and 17, sponsored by Skinner, Boston. For more information call 800-448-3883 or visit winterthur.org/calendar.

1 “Auctioneer’s Hammer Strips Home of John, Priscilla Alden,” Boston Herald, October 8, 1955. 
2 As early as 1769 a men’s social group, the Old Colony Club, gathered to celebrate the landing of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrim Society was founded in 1820 and created a permanent museum in 1824. On Nantucket, Eliza Ann McCleave created a private museum in the late 1830s. The Old Colony Historical Society in Taunton, Massachusetts, was chartered in 1853 and a similar organization appeared in Rehoboth in 1884. See Brock Jobe, “An Introduction to Southeastern Massachusetts and Its Furniture,” in  Brock Jobe, Gary R. Sullivan, and Jack O’Brien, Harbor and Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710–1850 (University Press of New England, Hanover, N. H., 2009), pp.  25–26. 
3 Henry David Thoreau, Cape Cod, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer (Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1988), p.  214. Thoreau made four trips on foot across Cape Cod in the mid-nineteenth century and published an account of his experience in 1865. See Jobe, “An Introduction to Southeastern Massachusetts and Its Furniture,” p. 25. 
4 Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury (Old America Company, Framingham, Mass., 1928–1933), vol. 1, Pl. 856. 
5 See Jobe, Sullivan, and O’Brien, Harbor and Home, p. 226, Pl. 78.
6 Jack O’Brien and Derin Bray, “Shaped by the Sea: Cabinetmaking in Southeastern Massachusetts,” ibid., pp. 27–38. Additional contributors to the catalogue include Dennis Carr, Karin Goldstein, Forbes Maner, Nicholas Schonberger, Laura Simo, and Martha Willoughby.
7 See Jack O’Brien, “A New Bedford masterpiece,” The Magazine Antiques, vol. 172, no. 6 (May 2007), pp. 138–145.

Laura Beach writes extensively about antiques.

by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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