The Metropolitan Museum's preeminent collection of early colonial furniture is expertly documented in this long-awaited publication. It presents a broad spectrum of furniture forms made in America during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—from chairs and other seating to tables, boxes, various types of chests and cupboards, dressing tables, and desks—and includes prime examples of the different modes of ornamentation in fashion during that period. Freshly photographed in color for this volume, each of the 141 objects is thoroughly described, with detailed information given on its construction, condition, dimensions, materials, and inscriptions and other marks, as well as provenance and exhibition history. Each object is also explicated in terms of the styles and craftsmanship of the period and evaluated in light of comparative pieces in public and private collections throughout the country.
Furniture from New England predominates, but there are significant examples of forms and ornament characteristic of New York and Pennsylvania, as well. The Museum's masterpieces range from majestic seventeenth-century turned chairs with a spindle back to case pieces in the William and Mary style of the early eighteenth century that feature dramatic veneers or japanning. Several chairs in the collection retain their original upholstery, and some of the chests and cupboards have their original painted decoration. The pigments on the painted pieces have been identified, and the results published here represent the first large body of such information included in an American furniture catalogue. An appendix containing photographic details of construction and decorative elements and another with line drawings explaining furniture terms and showing various types of joints and moldings are also included.
This is the first volume in a series that is dedicated to American furniture in the Museum; the second volume, on the late colonial period, was published in 1985.