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  18th CENTURY, NANTUCKET-ORIGIN, STAND-UP BLANKET CHEST, EXUBERANTLY PAINT-DECORATED, OWNED BY THE COFFIN FAMILY AND NICKNAMED "THE TIGER CHEST" BY FAMILY MEMBERS, WHO HANDED IT DOWN FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION, CIRCA 1780-90
Dimensions (inches): 42.75" tall x 42" wide x 19.25" deep
Description:
Stand-up blanket chest over two drawers, exuberantly painted, in a folk art manner, with fancifully scalloped, boot jack ends and skirt, attractively proportioned. The decoration consists of widely-spaced, curving lines, in a loose interpretation of elaborate wood grain. The result is all-together bold and whimsical, with a degree of visual impact seldom achieved among its counterparts, placing it among the best of its kind.

The story that accompanies the chest solidifies its importance in both American history and decorative arts. It was handed down through generations of the Coffin family on Nantucket, where it was very likely made. Anyone who knows the island well, knows that the Coffin name is practically synonymous with Nantucket itself. The Coffins were a whaling family who both settled the island (purchasing it with a group of investors for 30 pounds and 2 beaver hats in the 17th century), and operated their whaling trade from there well into the 19th century. The eldest house on the island that still stands is the Jethro Coffin house, built in 1686. 80 years later there were six ship captains by that name operating whalers out of Nantucket.

It is said that the Coffins referred to this as "The Tiger Chest," an especially fitting name that would leave little doubt if one were given instructions to go find it. In addition to the obvious, the returns on the base are not wholly unlike fangs, while the ovals on the bottom drawer and the large circular area around the escutcheon could pass as eyes and a nose, especially to a child. In 30 years of studying, collecting, and selling paint-decorated furniture, I have seldom heard of pieces with a nickname of this sort, and to come from such a storied family of whalers makes it particularly compelling. You can almost hear a son of the various Captain Coffins exclaiming: "Don't get too close to the Tiger Chest!"

Made of white pine planks, some of them nineteen inches in width, the construction dates to the last quarter of the 18th century. The boards are joined with a combination of rather huge, rose-head nails and especially large t-heads, both wonderful to behold. The overlapping drawers have unusually wide, hand-dovetailing, with t-head nails to assist in the joinery. The lid has bread-boarded ends and is fitted to the case with snipe hinges. The Queen Anne style, bail-handle pulls have large, round back plates and the oval escutcheons are just for show; there are no locks. The Coffin name is incised, burnt onto the reverse of the 2-board, chamfered back, near the top edge.

Condition: The paint is entirely original. Even the decoration on the top is almost wholly intact. The surface was cleaned. Dots of white paint were removed from various locations where they had splattered onto it sometime in the past. Spilled liquids, long hardened, were cautiously removed from the top.
   
Primary Color: golden tan, brown, yellow
Earliest Date: 1780
Latest Date: 1800
For Sale Status: Available
Price Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com
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