Wethersfield, Connecticut, 3 miles from Hartford, is one of the oldest towns in Connecticut, settled in 1634. There remain dozens of buildings built in the 18th century and earlier. It is a living history village and this chest-on chest is probably one of the pieces originally made for that village. Among the surviving Wethersfield pieces from the 18th century, the best collected record of Wethersfield-made furniture is the Willard group. (They include 10 bonnet-top high chests, two flat-tops, a high chest base, and three dressing tables.) Note the resemblance of our case's bonnet-top and carved elements to an example from the Willard Group illustrated in Kugelman and Lionetti's Connecticut Valley Furniture: Eliphalet Chapin and His Contemporaries, 1750-1800 (see scan below). Pieces of this architectural scale are part and parcel of the architecture of this historic, untouched area.
The chest itself was obviously made for one of its finer buildings. Its bonnet top is quintessential Connecticut with its steep “eccentric” (provincial?) ascent which differentiates from a more classic design. If this weren’t enough, the bonnet is further provincialized with small pendants throughout; quite unusual. Of most distinction is the beautifully carved and stylized sunburst carving below the central finial and the wonderful carved fan developed as a double fan (see detail). It’s the best! The cherrywood is fairly consistent and has turned a nut brown, which comes with age. Also, note the consistent color of the backboards, and the size of one of them; the tree must have been 4 feet wide! It’s a pure piece.
The piece has no major alterations and is original. The brasses all appear original, however the posts on the lower drawers were changed at one time, probably a function of use as some of the threading on the posts becomes worn.
Lastly, whereas documented examples of the Wethersfield highboys are to be found among the Williard group, the chest-on-chest version, (as seen here) seems to be a rarer form in our research, and is the only one we have found. The best home for this stately piece would have an Andrew Wyeth painting hanging on a nearby wall.