Friday, September 5, 2014

The Damning Winds of Fashion

Washstand     H:36.25" W: 20.25" D:16"

After an appointment at a client’s house today I made a point to stop in at Mid-coast Fine Antiques in Holden, ME. I hadn’t seen Benjie and Francine in years and so it was great to drop by and catch up. Since I was there, I thought I’d snoop around a bit and see what was out in the showroom, specifically looking for Maine made pieces. They had several items to look at but one in particular caught my eye. This little wash stand is a great example of early Maine fancy painting. This is nicer than the plain stenciling done on so many of these “Hitchcock” pieces (as many are wont to call them).

What I like about this example is that this was made at the end of the artisan era. It was made completely with hand tools right before the industrial revolution took over. And it’s even more rare to have a signature. This one has a pencil inscription which reads, “Nathaniel Brown Esq., painter. Portland, May 21, 1829.” It’s pretty exciting to me to see these things with original surfaces. They are around still but so many of them were subjected to the lye tanks in the 60s and 70s. Now they sit in people’s cottages naked and shamefaced, exposing the paint grade pine and maple that was used to construct them. It’s a shame in my book. The ironic thing is that in its day the whole appeal (and dare I say ‘soul’) of these things was the decorative painting. O the damning blows of the winds of fashion!

I know some people roll their eyes at this stuff when they see it. But you know what? This piece is almost 200 years old. I’d say that’s pretty impressive… and worth respecting.

Dovetailed rail joint


The inscription

Solid construction

Dovetails? Yep.

"Yellow Wash-stand" by Steven Spurrier, c.1939    Courtesy: Tate

1 comment:

  1. It's a charming little piece of workmanship. Nicely built, as you say.