This desk and the paintings nearby all speak to the highly international nature of the market for fine and decorative arts in the 18th century. The desk, for example, was manufactured in Boston by the Boston Bay Cabinet Shop just prior to the American Revolution, yet it also demonstrates the popularity of the English Chippendale style in this country. Elements such as the heavily-knuckled ball and claw feet, squat, curving legs and the undulating front drawers (called a block front) are all hallmarks of this style. In general, American Chippendale furniture had less ornamentation and was more robust in stature than examples from the workshops of English manufacturers.
The portrait of two young children is signed and dated by Cosmo Alexander, an itinerant Scottish portrait artist who worked in the American colonies in the late 1700s. The date on the painting (1761) suggests that it was made before he came to this country. But if we compare it to one of his later, “American” canvases, such as the Portrait of a Lady attributed to him that hangs nearby, we can see that he worked in the same style on both sides of the Atlantic. While in America, Alexander met and eventually became a mentor to Gilbert Stuart, who is now recognized as one of America's greatest early portraitists.
mahogany, white pine
Measurements: height: 44.5 inches width: 47 inches depth: 25 inchesGift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry C. Landon, III 1991.58.1
Currently on view at Mint Museum UPTOWN