Published: October 27, 2020
WINDSOR, CONN. – Measuring only 5-1/8 inches high and 13½ inches wide, a diminutive oak box with hinged lid and “S” scrolls carved to the front, attributed to Massachusetts maker Thomas Dennis (1670-1700) sold for $36,600 in Nadeau Auction Gallery’s October 24 sale.
Portsmouth, N.H., dealer Hollis Brodrick was the buyer, and he was pleased to get it.
“The size is spectacular, it’s an incredibly sweet, crisp thing,” Brodrick said. “Some were skeptical because it’s all oak and no secondary wood. Because of the limited wood supplies in their country, the English would saw out their oak fairly thin so they would have minimal loss. But in America, because there were hundreds of thousands of giant oak trees, they would just split out a chunk, rive them and plane them down. That was the American tradition, we had so much wood, they wouldn’t worry about loss. Sometimes the rive marks have been totally planed out, but there is still evidence of riving on the bottom board of this box.”
Brodrick said this small work was likely made to house a bible or documents. He said it conforms to all of the attributions of works by Thomas Dennis, including the carving to the front and the lunette-shaped chip carves along the sides of the lid.
The box had provenance to the Vincent Family Collection of Fairfield, Conn.
Watch for a full review of this sale in a future issue.
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