Published: August 21, 2015
HARTFORD, CONN. — The Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) recently acquired a rare chest-on-chest signed by Ephraim Grant, a cabinetmaker from North Stonington, Conn. In addition to being signed by Grant, the chest-on-chest is also inscribed with the name of its first owner, Mary Smith, and the place where it was made. Eighteenth Century Connecticut furniture inscribed with the name of its maker, place of origin and first owner is extremely rare.
Crafted circa 1790, the chest-on-chest follows the quirky southeastern Connecticut convention of being made of a number of locally available woods, including maple, butternut, cherry, chestnut, birch and white pine. The distinctively carved sunburst relates to similar features on a number of other known case pieces and helps to link them to a Stonington origin. Grant was born in 1764 and died in 1797. Further research is being conducted to determine the exact location of his shop and if he worked with other cabinetmakers.
When asked about the piece, Jody Blankenship, CHS executive director, commented “We are thrilled to have acquired this wonderfully inscribed chest-on-chest. It not only furthers our goal of acquiring signed, inscribed or labeled examples of Connecticut furniture, it fills a gap in our collection of furniture known to have been made in the Stonington area. At least one high chest has also been linked to Grant’s shop and we will certainly be on the lookout for other related pieces.”
Antiques and fine art specialist Arthur Liverant of Nathan Liverant & Son, Colchester, Conn., agreed that the documentation on the piece represents a “great revelation” and furthers the trade’s research efforts. “When we find a piece that is so well documented, it gives us leads on who may have made similar pieces. I am thrilled that they had the opportunity to buy it,” he said.
The chest-on-chest was purchased by the CHS from Walton Antiques in Jewett City, Conn., according to the society, which also noted that prior sales were to individuals through Sotheby’s in January 1999 and June 2004. “It’s very important to have the inscription of the maker, place of origin and who it was made for,” said Robert Lionetti of Walton Antiques.
The Connecticut Historical Society is at One Elizabeth Street. For information, www.chs.org or 860-236-5621.
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