Skinner Inc.

Auctioneers and Appraisers of Objects of Value

Looking Back on Four Centuries of Antique Furniture from Massachusetts

As a student of American furniture, I was taught early on about the distinct regional styles that developed during our country’s history. Objects made in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York each spoke from their own individual locales. Having lived in Massachusetts for my entire adult life and raised a family here, the unique material culture of this region appeals to me personally. The grace, femininity, and economy of movement in Massachusetts furniture evoke traditional Yankee thrift as well as the modern notion that less is more.

Four Centuries of Massachussetts Furniture is a groundbreaking new collaboration among eleven cultural institutions, and Skinner is very pleased to sponsor the effort. The common goal of the project is to document and share with the public the impact of Massachusetts on furniture-making in America from the earliest years of British settlement to the present.

More scholarship and opportunities for study will increase understanding of these wonderful objects, and this translates directly into a better appreciation for our material history. Skinner has sold many great pieces of Massachusetts furniture, from record-breaking Japanned high chests to fine examples of Seymour Federal furniture. When discoveries come to market, we get a chance to see how the audience appreciates these rare and beautiful objects.

Sold for $312,000. Federal Carved Mahogany and Bird’s-eye Maple Veneer Dressing Chest with Mirror, attributed to Thomas Seymour, probably with John Seymour, Boston, c. 1805-10

Sold for $1,876,000. Rare Queen Anne Japanned Maple and Pine High Chest of Drawers.

The Four Centuries project will also bring Massachusetts furniture into the spotlight for all to see by uniting art organizations through a series of exhibits, lectures, and other events. This is an amazing opportunity to generate public interest in the overall project—far more interest, ideally, than any one exhibition or one institution could generate on its own.

Not only will the public come together to enjoy these events and exhibits, but scholars will join together as well. I can’t wait to see how this project changes the field of Massachusetts furniture, and I hope the collaboration continues to foster rewarding relationships.

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