Tucked away in an alcove in the Springfield Museum of Art this 19th century desk begs more questions than answers. The form itself is typical of furniture built in a rural setting by a cabinetmaker who sparingly added a few touches of ornament in arches above the doorways and a few curves on the base apron.
Then something wild happened. Another artisan, possibly 50 – 100 years later carved the existing desk lid and chest facade with a riot of poppy flowers and vines.
If that was not enough, they put an exclamation point on this oddity and ebonized the carved panels. The museum attendant had no idea of the story behind it and one can only guess. The carving is expertly done, so much so that it makes one wonder why the carver went to so much trouble to mis-match it with this vernacular piece. It’s hard to imagine someone with so much talent choosing this chest for a canvas. Did they do this at gunpoint? Perhaps they were making a statement or making a joke. Any ideas why this might have came about?
George R. Walker
Maybe it was a gift for his “intended” or for his Mother or other elderly honorable in his family or church or community.
Perhaps an emotional attachment to the piece passed on by parents etc. I suspect it is unfinished and would eventually be carved and ebonized all over. Perhaps intent was to practice carving on this piece and by the time the craftsman got to it (perhaps projects accumulated then too), he was accomplished. Perhaps a carver but not a joiner and just made a living “flipping” unadorned furniture for decorated. Perhaps skilled but poor craftsman and his lovely wife admired a fancy version and they only had this one. Some one asked an out of work carver to do this to their piece.
Wife asked him to do it.
it’s very good and useful
Or, his wife did it. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/season/20/little-rock-ar/appraisals/art-nouveau-carved-walnut-desk-ca-1890–201505A07