On November 7th, 2004 we sold a previously undiscovered Boston Japanned chest for $1,876,000 in our American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction. Simply put, it’s one of the most extraordinary pieces of furniture and one of the rarest finds we’ve ever encountered in all our years in the business.
The chest not only set a new high for a single lot sold in a Skinner Americana auction, it was also the most expensive piece of furniture ever auctioned in New England, and it established a new record price for a piece of Japanned American furniture, exceeding the old record by over $50,000.
Now, eight years later, the record still stands.
I originally discovered the Japanned Chest on a seemingly routine house call with my colleague and fellow American furniture appraiser Martha Hamilton. The piece dates back to 1735-39, and was found in an old farmhouse in Lowell, Massachusetts. The piece, which had never been out of the family of its original owners, was clearly signed by one of the well-known Boston japanners, Robert Davis (d. 1739).
Most japanned pieces from this period come to the market restored; this is only the fifth such piece known to have been preserved in such untouched condition. In fact, the only other known works to have been decorated with chinoiserie by Davis are a high chest of drawers currently in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art, and a tall case clock, also in a museum collection.
It’s not often that a spectacular piece like this one comes along. I look forward each day to the next great discovery, which perhaps you own.