The Life and Career of Christian M. Nestell
Christian Michael Nestell was eighteen years old when he attended an unidentified school or academy in New York City for three semesters in 1811–1812 to obtain instruction in ornamental painting. A drawing/copy book of pencil and watercolor ornament that bears his name survives from this period and is the subject of this study (fig. 1).
Nestell was born to Christian I. and Mary (Swan) Nestell on February 10, 1793. The elder Nestell is listed variously as a baker, grocer, flour inspector, or flour merchant in city directories before his death in 1822 or 1823. Many years later, he was identified as being of German birth in the death record of Christian Michael. Records of the Nestell (also Nestle) family in America are few. A Michael Nestell (d. 1772) and family emigrated from Germany, probably Wittenburg, sometime between 1753 and 1756, although a direct link between that family and Christian I. Nestell has yet to be established.
The United States census for 1790 describes the Christian I. Nestell household as containing two males sixteen years or older, a male under sixteen years, and a female. The second adult male likely was an apprentice or journeyman in the family bakery, and the male child probably was an older brother of Christian Michael. Early twentieth-century Masonic records identify a John J. Nestell as a nephew of Christian Michael and the donor of his uncle’s Masonic “jewels, papers, and other . . . relics” to the Nestell Lodge, No. 37, A.F. and A.M., of Providence, Rhode Island, about 1916–1917. During his lifetime, John may also have been the keeper of his uncle’s drawing book. The document was offered at auction in 1982 from an unknown consignor.
Handwritten notations in Nestell’s drawing book describe a period of instruction extending from June 1, 1811, to March 9, 1812, the time divided into three, three-month semesters. Nestell had his nineteenth birthday during this period. Whether other notebooks and related papers once accompanied this document is unknown, although it seems unlikely that a notebook of later date ever existed. A brief biographical sketch of Nestell in an early twentieth-century Masonic publication states that he “served in the War of 1812 in New York when 19 years old.”
New York was a leading American seaport in 1811–1812 and supported a large craft community, as confirmed in city directories published annually. The population of the urban center was 96,000 by 1810, rising to almost 124,000 in another decade. During a visit to New York in 1811, Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College, described the city’s superiority as a trade center:
The advantages of a commercial nature possessed by New York are unrivaled on this side of the Atlantic. . . . The harbor . . . is capable of containing the greatest number of ships which will ever be assembled in one place, with sufficient depth of water and good anchorage. . . . There are between three and four hundred vessels . . . employed continually on [the] Hudson River throughout the mild season. The quantity of property floating on this stream exceeds beyond comparison that which moves on any other river in the eastern section of the United States. New York is fast becoming . . . the market town for the whole American coast from St. Marys [Georgia] to Cape Cod. The foreign commerce of this city is carried on with every part of the world. . . . The bustle in the streets, the perpetual activity of the carts, the noise and hurry at the docks which on three sides encircle the city; the sound of saws, axes, and hammers at the shipyards; the . . . numerous buildings rising in almost every part of it, and the multitude of workmen employed upon them form as lively a specimen of “the busy hum of populous cities” as can be imagined.
Potential candidates for Christian M. Nestell’s instructor are numerous and represent several related occupations, as identified principally in city directories for 1811 and 1812: chair, coach, ornamental, or sign painter; gilder; japanner; miniature and portrait painter; watercolorer; artist; picture maker; and proprietor of a drawing or painting academy or school. Some artisans retitled their occupation from year to year, and others appeared and disappeared in the listings on an annual basis. Seventy-seven candidates who emerged from the records were identified on a facsimile map of lower Manhattan dating from the early nineteenth century. Only a few are located north of the residence and business site maintained from 1811 to 1814 by Nestell’s father on Fourth Street (probably now Allen Street) near Hester, a location just east of the Bowery Road and south of the present-day approach to the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn. From 1808 to 1810, the Nestell family had resided nearby at 68 Harman Street.
Slightly fewer than half the instructor candidates on the list resided within a fifteen-block walk of the Nestell residence. All the occupations noted are represented except that of japanner. Only one academy falls within the boundaries of this region, and it is located on the fringe. By contrast, thirteen gilders plied their trade in the neighborhood. Nestell also could have trained beyond the general vicinity of his home with an artisan residing at the tip of Manhattan or in a neighborhood along the Hudson River. The existence of a drawing book suggests that the young man enjoyed the formality of academy training, yet the nature and quality of the designs suggest the influence of a sign and/or ornamental painter.
Nestell’s possession of a drawing book raises questions other than the identity of his instructor: Was this the only training the future ornamental painter and gilder received? Did he pursue this training every day during the period described? Did he train earlier or concurrently in another, possibly a complementary, craft, such as chairmaking? Providing some insight into the conduct of academy training (if such was the route taken by Nestell) are early nineteenth-century advertisements of Archibald Robertson, proprietor of the Columbian Academy of Painting and Drawing on Liberty Street, a location on Manhattan’s tip near City Hall and the well-known Tontine Coffee House. Robertson offered classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Ladies attended in the afternoon, and gentlemen, from 6 pm to 8 pm. Private tuition at home also was available.
Following his training in ornamental painting, Nestell dropped from sight in the records. Army enlistments covering the period of the War of 1812 are silent on the subject of his supposed military service, although at best the records are incomplete. More important is the young artisan’s whereabouts following the war and before 1820 when he settled in Providence, Rhode Island. Perhaps Nestell remained in New York and practiced the trade of ornamental painter as a journeyman or assisted his father in the flour business. Residing with his employer or his family could explain the absence of Nestell’s name from city directories. About 1820, the elder Nestell suffered financial reverses, as documented in a creditor agreement dated January 8, 1821. If young Nestell was still in the city, this circumstance may have prompted his relocation to Providence.
The first reference to Christian M. Nestell in Providence, which was for payment of $15 for “Quarter Shop Rent” to the Proud brothers on February 17, 1820, almost coincides with his earliest newspaper notice of February 26 stating that he had “taken the Store formerly occupied by Samuel and Daniel Proud, nearly opposite the Rev. Mr. Wilson’s meeting-house” on Broad Street (fig. 2). Nestell’s merchandise consisted of “a general assortment of painted and gilt Windsor chairs.” Whether the craftsman both framed and applied finish to his stock or purchased framed chairs “in the wood” to paint, ornament, and gild is unclear, as is Nestell’s arrangement with the Prouds, who were turners and chairmakers. The brothers’ accounts record “Shop Rent,” suggesting that Nestell occupied part of their manufacturing facility, whereas the advertisement describes a store vacated by the brothers. Although the shop and store addresses appear to be the same (replace “nearly opposite” in the advertisement with “set over nearly against”), the Prouds still actively pursued their trade. When their Broad Street structure was erected in the 1790s next to the Abbot Parade, which in turn was adjacent to the meetinghouse, it was described as a house and shop (fig. 3). Apparently, in 1820 the Prouds continued to work in a freestanding shop on the property and rented the first floor of the house to Nestell. Houses in this period frequently served dual functions as work/retail and dwelling spaces. Notable also is the absence of charges for finished or unfinished chairs, except for a few odd purchases, in the Prouds’ accounts with Nestell. Instead, the records describe minor repairs, adding rockers to eight chairs, bottoming a few rush-seat chairs, fabricating three “high seats,” and Nestell’s purchase of “a narrow ax.”
The second, and possibly last, Nestell advertisement dates more than two years later to August 28, 1822, and announces the removal of his “Chair Ware Room and Shop” to 112 South Main Street, an address on the opposite side of the Providence River (figs. 3, 4). Again, interpretation is open to speculation. Both the old and the new facility appear to have had an area set off for use as a work space—possibly a chairmaking shop, a painting room, or both. Like the first notice, this one is illustrated with a woodcut of a Windsor armchair bearing the craftsman’s initials on the top of the seat. By 1822 Nestell had expanded his stock to include both fancy and Windsor chairs. The “common” chairs identified in the notice heading were either cheap Windsors or rush-bottom slat-back chairs, a type still used at that date in kitchens. A further term—“high back”—appears to describe slat-back seating. The wood-seat rocking chair, another item, was soaring into popularity in this period.
The population of Providence when Nestell moved there about 1820 was just under 12,000. The Providence River divided the community into two almost equal parts connected by a bridge. Main Street lies close to the eastern side of the river and runs parallel with it (fig. 3). Brown University (established 1770) and the First Baptist Meeting House were prominent structures on the rising land above the river. Samuel Breck, visiting from Philadelphia in 1826, also observed that “some of the handsomest houses in the United States are in the town of Providence.” Two years earlier, Anne Newport Royall, an inveterate traveler, commented on the flourishing state of the community and noted its extensive trade with the East Indies. Other foreign destinations, as reported in newspapers of the period, included Europe, Africa, the West Indies, South America, and the Orient. Domestic trade existed from Penobscot Bay to New Orleans, and passenger steamboats connected the community with New York, Boston, New London, Norwich, and Fall River. The Blackstone Canal, linking the inland town of Worcester, Massachusetts, with Providence, was begun in 1825. Considerable capital had been diverted to manufacturing by this date, with the production of cotton and woolen cloth as a substantial industry. Other leading manufactures were machinery for the textile mills, jewelry, metalwares, and leather products.
Windsor side chairs of two patterns are documented as coming from the shop/store of Christian Nestell. The earliest pattern, represented by three chairs from a set produced when the craftsman was located on Broad Street, has a slat back framed with three arrowlike spindles known during the period as “flat sticks” (fig. 5). The chairs retain their original peach-colored surface paint and leafy ornament executed in red and dark green. A paper label on the bottom of one plank is embellished with the same cut of a slat-back, flat-spindle armchair that appears in Nestell’s advertisements (fig. 6). The shield-type seat is better modeled than the plank in a later Nestell slat-back chair framed at the back with ball-type spindles (fig. 7). Painted pencilwork and heavy banding were required to give definition to the relatively shapeless, flat-sided seat of the second pattern. The bamboo-work of the legs in the two designs is about the same. The stenciled identification of the maker within a large oval border on the plank bottom of the ball-spindle chair includes an address on Main Street (fig. 3).
The few manuscript references that identify the nature of business at Nestell’s shop/store after his relocation to Main Street describe basic activity in the painting and ornamenting trade. His known customers were individuals of prominence. For Richard Ward Greene, Esq., United States district attorney for Rhode Island and later chief justice of the state, Nestell varnished a bureau and repaired a “large wash Table” in 1827. Other recorded activity focuses on chairwork. Edward Carrington, a merchant in the China trade, sought Nestell’s services several times between 1824 and 1826 for repairs, painting, and gilding. Another China-trade merchant, Sullivan Dorr, had chairs painted in 1826. When the work was completed, Nestell arranged for their delivery to Dorr’s mansion on Benefit Street.
Nestell sought the patronage of other merchants, noting in his second advertisement that he could provide shippers with any quantity of chairs for export. He also was able to supply cabinetwork, although the wording of this item suggests he acted in the capacity of a broker rather than as a craftsman (fig. 4). Ornamental painting and gilding appear to have been Nestell’s principal focus when not retailing furniture.
A survey of advertisements by other Providence craftsmen in the ornamental painting trade during the 1820s is enlightening. As a companion activity to ornamental and plain painting, many craftsmen offered oil and water gilding. Surfaces finished by the first method could be burnished to a high luster. Picture and looking glass frames were the usual products, and re-gilding was as brisk a business as new gilding. In a directory advertisement of 1830, Samuel J. Bower added another dimension to the business: "Vanes and ball for Churches and Factories, and Spires for Lightning-Rods gilded in a superior style and with the best of gold."
Ornamental painting encompassed a variety of tasks and mediums. Nestell’s principal focus, understandably, was painting and ornamenting new furniture. When wood surfaces became worn or marred, families could have “their Chairs re-painted and gilt upon fair terms” (fig. 4). Samuel Bower and others in the trade paid “particular attention to the painting of Military Standards,” which appear to have been in considerable demand by local militia groups. Bower also was a source for “Ships’ Colours made and Painted in the best manner, and at short notice.” Since Providence was a thriving, moderate-sized seaport, requests for these colorful ensigns must have been brisk. Another substantial arm of the business was the supply of Masonic banners and aprons and “other symbolic representations of masonry.” As a dedicated, lifelong member of the brotherhood, Nestell likely enjoyed good patronage in this branch of his trade.
Another principal thrust in ornamental painting was the production of signs. Given the flourishing economy and population growth of early nineteenth-century Providence, the constantly changing arrangements in business, and the toll extracted by weather conditions on outdoor fixtures, demand must have been constant. Craftsmen offered “signs of every description” —ornamental, plain, and gilded—“executed in the neatest manner and at short notice.” To guarantee timely delivery, William M. Pitman stocked an assortment of semi-finished boards “of almost any pattern.” For his part, Samuel Bower counseled potential customers to look around them, since “specimens of his work may be seen on almost every building in town.” One of the principal uses of gilding on signs was for lettering. Bower also offered “smalted” signs. In his comprehensive series on “House Paints in Colonial America,” Richard M. Candee ascertained that this powder blue pigment was used primarily “by strewing it on any ground of oil-paint; where it makes a bright warm blue shining surface.” A popular use was over gilded lettering.
Other applications of the ornamenter’s art in the daily life of Providence include a miscellany of items. William Pitman advertised that he painted fire buckets. The name of the fire company, the date, and the initials or name of the owner could be accompanied by an appropriate decorative device or scene. In 1829, Henry Wilder Miller of neighboring Worcester billed that town for “Painting and Figuring 16 Fire Buckets.” Painters also stood ready to supply cloth bags stenciled with identification for the removal of valuables from the home in the event of fire. In another medium, John S. Barrow executed “Coats of Arms . . . in the best stile” for framing and hanging on the wall. These symbols of family status were popular in Boston during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, just as they had been decades earlier when George Davidson painted “a Coate of arms Complete” for a member of the Oliver family. To celebrate special events, community groups and private organizations often requested the ornamental painter to fabricate one or more transparencies for illumination. Samuel Bowers painted “Transparenc[i]es of all descriptions, on silk or linen.” Either cloth was finely woven so that when light passed through it the scene, ornament, or device was displayed to advantage.
Ornamental painters produced glass mats for many types of pictures, including watercolors, drawings, prints, and needlework. Borders were enameled in an opaque color and “lettered in Gold or Bronze,” as requested. In addition, some decorators such as Kinsley C. Gladding were prepared to supply “Magic Lantern Glasses, transparent or opaque,’’ and “Timepiece and Looking-Glass Tablets in gold, silver, or colors.” Householders called for a variety of items to be varnished to preserve the surface. Gladding varnished and framed prints and watercolors. In 1824, William Pitman offered the community “maps of the town of Providence neatly varnished.” The following year he suggested to customers that he varnish the “trimmings on furniture . . . to prevent tarnishing and getting soiled.”
It is unknown whether Christian Nestell ever decorated coaches, wagons, and other vehicles, as did Whipple and Low at their shop on Andrews’ wharf; however, New York directory listings of 1811–1812 indicate that the trades of coach painter and ornamental painter usually were separate. Nestell was more likely to have practiced the art of wood graining, particularly on furnishings, front doors, and interior woodwork. In 1826, William Pitman offered “Mahogany, Satin wood, Rose wood, Oaks, and Marble neatly imitated.” Several ornamental painters broadened their services. Kinsley Gladding provided customers with “Views of Country Seats and other Buildings” and offered “Mourning pieces painted in India ink or colors.” Both Gladding and Sanford Mason also had equipment to produce profiles. Gladding cut his figures “with exactness,” whereas Mason painted his profiles on glass or paper.
From time to time craftsmen from outside the community provided competition for local painters. Two artisans whose work is well known today are cases in point. John Ritto Penniman, an accomplished artist, advertised a full range of services, from ornamenting military standards to painting landscapes, in a Providence newspaper notice of June 1822. He gave his address as Orange Street, Boston, “at the sign of the Painter’s Arms.” Rufus Porter visited Providence the same year and took up residence at Wesson’s Coffee House, where he showed a specimen of his work. He offered “to paint walls of rooms in elegant full colors, Landscape Scenery, at prices less than the ordinary expense of papering.” He pointed out that “spending the gloomy winter months amidst pleasant groves and verdant fields” would be uplifting.
Providence directories beginning with the first volume in 1824 through 1836 locate Nestell’s store at 111 (1824) or 109 South Main Street. His residence remained on the opposite side of the river. The sixteen years from 1820 to 1835–36 may define the extent of Nestell’s career as an independent ornamental painter and gilder. Beginning in 1837, city directories refer to him as a bank clerk; from 1847 he is listed without an occupation. Masonic records describe Nestell as “a diligent and successful worker at his trade, that of painter and gilder,” without mention of another occupation. Nestell’s death record of 1880 also describes him as a chair painter. Perhaps beginning in the mid-1840s the craftsman returned to his trade, working as a journeyman in the shop of another master.
Nestell apparently never owned land. He evidently built his “chair establishment,” described as a “building measuring eighteen feet front by forty back,” on land that he leased on Main Street. On October 20, 1835, Nestell sold the shop to one William Haslett for $350. (Nestell is listed as proprietor of the shop in the 1836 directory; however, the survey for the directory probably occurred before he sold the building to Haslett.) The only other deed located for Nestell is dated April 18, 1831, describing his purchase of three shares in the Providence New Market Association. The association owned a piece of land containing a building called the New Market, located at the juncture of Pawtuxet and High Streets. This site probably was less than a block from Nestell’s first chair store on Broad Street.
As indicated, Nestell became a resident of Providence early in 1820, if not during the last months of 1819. He quickly joined the Masonic fraternity and through this connection likely met his wife, Betsey Horton Bosworth, daughter of Asa Bosworth, “a prominent and respected Mason.” Nestell married in 1821, although his happiness was short-lived. Betsey died on October 30, 1822, leaving one son. Nestell never remarried. Providence municipal records dating from 1827 to 1852 show that he was taxed on personal property that ranged in value from $500–1,000 in the early years and from $2,000–2,500 beginning in 1843. The amounts are respectable for a man with a trade who owned no real estate. Nestell’s family obligations were also minimal. The craftsman held at least one public office, that of clerk of Ward No. 5 in 1832. He appears to have remained outside the ranks of the popular Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers whose notices appeared regularly in local newspapers, usually accompanied by the device of a workman’s upraised arm grasping a hammer. The craftsman died on February 26, 1880, age 87 years, 16 days. He was survived by his son and two married granddaughters.
Nestell had a long and respected association with Freemasonry in Rhode Island. He was admitted to Mount Vernon Lodge, No. 4, of Providence in September 1820. Three years later he became both a Royal Arch Mason and a Knight Templar. In 1826, Nestell was elected Worshipful Master of the Mount Vernon Lodge where he served for a term of two years. Over the years other degrees and offices followed as he continued to rise in the American Rite. Nestell remained a staunch supporter of the tenants of Freemasonry during the difficult years of the anti-Masonic movement in America in the late 1820s and early 1830s. At the craftsman’s death, the Grand Chaplin conducted the church service, and later the Templar burial service was read. Attendance at the funeral was large, the numbers swelled by the presence of many members of the fraternity. Nestell’s death occurred at a time when a new local lodge was forming in Providence. On March 4, 1880, it was constituted as the Nestell Lodge, No. 37, “to perpetuate the memory of . . . brother Christian M. Nestell.” In 1930 the lodge celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and marked the occasion by publishing a commemorative booklet. A photograph of Nestell forms the frontispiece (fig. 8).
The Christian M. Nestell Drawing Book: Design Sources
The Nestell drawing book is a modest volume bound in plain paper boards with a leather spine and corners. The owner’s name is penned in black ink on the front cover (fig. 1) and on several pages. The pagination includes eighty-two numbers, the first two forming a double-page format, the rest identifying the right-hand page only. The inside back cover is numbered 83. The laid paper that forms the leaves is watermarked with two devices: a fleur-de-lis within a cartouche surmounted by a crown, the date “1802” below the cartouche, and the word “iping” above the date “1802.” The first mark is a type referred to in the trade as a “Strasburg Lily.” The second mark identifies the name of the mill and its location in Sussex, England.
Pencil and watercolor is the medium of the eighty ornaments comprising the body of the drawing book. (Page 66 was removed at an unknown date; another page was “lost” in misnumbering.) Slightly more than half the ornaments (forty-one in number, or 51 percent) are represented by two complete or nearly complete drawings—the instructor’s original and the student’s competent copy. Another group of fifteen ornaments (19 percent) is incomplete; the student copy is executed fully or partially in pencil without color. As many as twenty-four ornaments (30 percent) are single units representing the work of the instructor only. Perhaps copies of some of these ornaments were made originally on loose sheets of paper now lost. The sequence of designs in the drawing book gives little hint of a structured progression from elementary to complex work. Several drawings that rely on perspective, detail, and shading as critical elements appear at the beginning of the sequence, whereas simple, flat, two-dimensional border patterns are intermixed throughout the book. Subject matter covers a broad spectrum: land and water scapes; animals, birds, and insects; floral forms and fruits; shells; geometric borders; trophies; classical, mythological, and patriotic subjects; and grained grounds.
Publications dealing with the arts, from theory and practical instruction to material preparation and technique, were common in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Some popular titles achieved many editions. Among prominent spokesmen was Thomas Sheraton, whose books of furniture design were consulted widely. He and others advised students of ornamental drawing to obtain a good grounding in perspective—the art of representing natural objects as they appear to the eye in respect to their relative distance and positions—and in geometrical drawing—the management of straight lines, curved lines, and angles. Proficiency in ornamental drawing was achieved through extensive copywork to master line and shade and to become acquainted with a broad range of subjects.
Many drawing and needlework schools that flourished in federal-era America had a collection of visual materials that instructors and students consulted for inspiration or used for copywork. Prints were a popular medium, the subject matter often drawn from Biblical, allegorical, mythological, literary, and historical sources. Imported engravings by George Morland and by Francesco Bartolozzi after paintings by Angelica Kauffmann were especially sought. Drawings along with illustrations in books imported from England and France were available to students at the academy of Mrs. Saunders and Miss Beach in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Miss Beach likely inherited the library from her father, who had emigrated from Bristol, England, about 1793. The Reverend William Bentley of Salem had an opportunity to examine one of the library’s volumes of natural history and found it “ornamented with figures highly coloured.”
Alexander Robertson, proprietor of a painting and drawing academy in New York, had a London correspondent in 1802 who was “particularly attentive in sending every publication of merit tending to the improvement of the young pupil or interesting and valuable to the scholar more advanced.” Robertson also had a collection of sketches that he had made during “various tours through the United States and Canada.” The same year his brother, Archibald Robertson, who directed the Columbian Academy of Painting in the city, announced that he would spare “no pains or expense . . . to procure new and elegant additions to his collection of patterns.” He had “greatly increased” his collection two years later “by the very particular exertions of friends and correspondents in the chief countries of Europe,” including Italy, France, and England. Among the selection were landscapes. Nestell’s drawing master apparently owned some visual materials, for figure 11 is based closely on a published source (see fig. 12).
Thatched-roof buildings are common in European pictorial sources, and they were part of the design repertory drawn upon by American needleworkers and ornamenters. The Nestell drawing book contains three scenes with thatched structures (figs. 9, 10). Each scene has two images—the instructor’s drawing at the top and the student’s copy at the bottom. The trees, which are similar in all the landscape views, are rendered in a distinctive, horizontally layered manner with clumps of foliage, a technique recommended in an ornamental painters’ guide of the early nineteenth century: “The trees need not be painted in strokes, but dabbed with . . . great freedom. They will have a much better effect than if great care was used in bringing up the foliage, which would be quite lost in this style of painting.” In figure 9 a waterwheel is prominent in the foreground and a peasant with a sack of grain walks in the middle ground. Waterwheels appear in some European scenes; they also occur in other American views. This wheel is delineated in basic terms and appears detached from its building and improperly oriented to the water source. The thatched building in figure 10 is accompanied by a pair of beehives elevated on a platform, the subject of another drawing in the book. Nestell’s drawing master inscribed the view in a sure, sophisticated hand; the student added a signed inscription in a less polished style.
The landscape scene on page 5 of the drawing book (fig. 11) is distinctly different in layout from those discussed above and those that follow, and for good reason. The drawing master adapted the view directly from an illustration in a printed source, a volume titled Elementary View of the Fine Arts published at London in 1809 (fig. 12). The changes are minor: the addition of a figure on the winding road in the foreground and the substitution of a fence for the small buildings behind the church. On the subject of composition, in general, the author commented:
The principal figure should strike the eye most, and stand out, from among the rest. This may be effected various ways, as by placing it in the centre of the piece; by exhibiting it, in a manner, by itself; by making the principal light fall upon it; by giving it the most resplendant drapery, or, indeed, by several [or all] of these methods.
Another noteworthy feature of the view is the crossed tree trunks in the right foreground. This unusual configuration may be noted in another printed source, an allegorical mezzotint engraving of Charity by P. Stampa, published at London in 1802. A church stands in the distance behind the trees in the print. The scene is one that was copied closely by young needleworkers in the Misses Patten’s school at Hartford, Connecticut, a few years later. Crossed tree trunks were also a prominent feature in the work of Samuel Folwell (1764–1813) and his students at Philadelphia, although the church was replaced by a tomb. In their crossed form the trees would seem to embody Christian symbolism, knowingly or otherwise.
Four views contain a body of water as a principal focus (figs. 13-15, 17). Figure 13, the lead design in the drawing book, is accompanied by a pencil sketch drawn by Nestell and an ink inscription penned by the master. Small boats, often with fishermen, were a common fixture in water scenes. Ruins of buildings, such as appear faintly in the background, were current in European art from the seventeenth century. A more picturesque rendering is the castellated style of figure 14.
Hannah Robertson, when commenting on landscape drawing in 1777, had advice for amateur artists:
Express a fair horizon, shewing the heavens cloudy or clear, more or less according to the occasion. . . . Take great care to augment or lessen every object, proportionably to its distance from the eye; and also to express them stronger or weaker. . . . If the landscapes are drawn in colours, the farther you go, the more you must heighten it with a very thin and airy blue, to make it appear as if farther off. . . . Let every site have its proper adjuncts . . . as the farm-house, windmill, woods, cattle, travellers, ruins of temples, castles, and monuments.
Nestell’s drawing master appears to have been well acquainted with this advice, although his scenes reveal a considerable lack of technical skill. “Proper adjuncts” to figure 15 include the sailing vessels and the small ruin standing in the background. An unusual feature is the waterfall at the right, the water seeming to appear out of nowhere. The delineation has a close parallel in a vignette accompanying a 1777 map of the northeastern American-Canadian border (fig. 16). Another notable element in figure 15 is the penciled grid that divides the drawing into small squares, a technique used to produce an “enlarged” or “contracted” facsimile of an original image. Given the small size of this view, the drawing master probably reduced a larger scene. The elements in each square of the copy would have replicated those of the original, making “the one exactly correspond with the other in due Symmetry and Proportion.” Figure 17, the most accomplished landscape scene, may represent a view taken directly from a printed source. The knarled tree in the foreground provides a strong focus, although one held in check by the subtle colors of the scene and the use of a panel border.
Two landscape vignettes are enhanced with human figures of simple form clothed in the rough dress of wanderers or itinerant traders (figs. 18, 19). The man with a walking stick in his hand and a dog on a lead carries his possessions or trading goods in a bundle on his back (fig. 18). Although travelers with walking sticks are relatively common in contemporary views (fig. 11), individuals with both a stick and a dog on a lead are rare. A catalogue of pictures exhibited in the gallery of the silhouettist Master Hubard, probably at Liverpool, twice lists A Blind Man and His Dog. Concealment of the eyes of the figure adds weight to this identification. The dog, as drawn, probably represents a hound.
The seated man of figure 19 appears to be preparing a simple meal. He too has a walking stick but no dog. Nestell made a simple pencil sketch of this scene below that of the drawing master. The exercise, which is the last one in the numbered pages of the drawing book, may have inspired the young student to sketch a related scene on the inside of the back cover (fig. 20). Three figures, two smoking pipes, idle upon the ground while waiting for a pot to boil. The poses appear to better describe vagabonds than wanderers. The spontaneity of the scene suggests it may have been drawn from life or remembrance, although printed sources with related scenes likely were available. One such vignette in a country setting with castle ruins appears in a two-volume work on The Antiquities of Ireland published in the 1790s. A rural scene in an 1807 London publication devoted to landscape drawing also includes as a prominent feature a tall tripod frame with a large kettle suspended over a fire in the manner of the Nestell sketch.
The author of The Art of Drawing and Painting in Water-Colours (1778) advised young artists that “in the Imitation of Beasts, Fowls, Fishes, &c. it is requisite not only to be perfect in laying down the exact Proportions, but, before you proceed to the shadowing and trimming your Work, to be well acquainted in the general outward Lines.”
Four pages in the Nestell drawing book are devoted to illustrations of animals—rabbits, squirrels, and a fox with a bird—each placed in a vignette-like setting containing foliage, a background considered appropriate “to show the figures to advantage.” The two illustrations of rabbits are appreciably different in their interpretation of anatomy. The animals of figure 21 are solid and muscular, much like the “Cony” illustrated in Edward Topsel’s History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658). The term “cony,” a now archaic spelling, once identified animals of “the third rank . . . among the divers kinds of Hares.” “Cony” is also a term used in heraldry. The “hare” depicted in the Topsel volume is lean and sprightly in appearance, closer in type to the second pair of rabbits illustrated in the drawing book which are distinguishable from squirrels only in the short length of their tails.
Squirrels appear less frequently than hares in artists’ source books. Their prominent, long bushy tails resemble the appendage of the squirrel at the left in figure 22. The posture of this animal also approximates that of a squirrel illustrated in reverse in a volume titled A Booke Containing Such Beasts As Are Most Usefull For Such As Practice Drawing, Graveing, Armes Painting, [and] Chaseing, which was probably published in the late seventeenth century. Nestell’s drawing master may have had an original copy of this volume or a later edition. Pet squirrels are depicted with some regularity in American portraits of children and even those of adults, an indication of public interest in the small animal.
The fox was almost as popular as the hare among purveyors of ornament. It too is depicted in a leaping or springing attitude (fig. 23). Topsel illustrated a fox in his History of Four-Footed Beasts (1658), and the animal was well known to readers of Aesop’s Fables in one or more of its many editions. The story depicted here, “The Fox and the Divining Cock” (the cock portrayed as a goose), moralizes on the subject of a fool swayed by flattery. The fox has coaxed the cock out of a tree by praising its faculties as a great prophet. By seizing the bird by the neck and carrying it to the woods, Reynard muses “upon vain Fools”: “For this So[r]t of a Cock (says he) to take himself for a Diviner, and yet not foresee at the same time, that if he fell into my Clutches, I should certainly make a Supper of him.”
The birds of figures 24 and 25 are more noteworthy for their decorative appeal than for their ornithological merit. Species identification was not a goal of the painter. Natural settings add dimension to the vignettes, and touches of bright color enhance the visual appeal of the compositions. The foliage of the trees is in the style of this drawing master. Aviculture became a popular pastime among the wealthy during the Renaissance, and the appetite for birds seems never to have abated. As new trade routes opened around the world, opportunities increased for collecting exotic species. The Portuguese introduced the canary to Europe, and Columbus returned to Barcelona from the New World with a pair of parrots. Parrots appear to have caught on quickly because of their brilliant plumage and ability to imitate the human voice (fig. 26).
American sailors brought parrots back from voyages to the southern hemisphere, although, closer to home, parakeets of green plumage ranged throughout the Carolinas into the early nineteenth century. Shopkeepers made the colorful birds available to householders. As early as 1759 and 1762, metalworkers in New York City offered “Wire Cages for Parrots.” The craze for parrots and parakeets was not confined to large cities however. George Pottie of Louisa County, Virginia, ordered a parrot cage in 1772. Pet parrots were often released from their cages to roam about the house, much to the delight or dismay of guests.
The peacock first became a bird of status among aviculturists during the Tudor period (fig. 27). Ages earlier its original home was India. The bird was a favorite with illustrators, thus books on ornithology frequently include specimens with lavish plumage. The bird also figures in fable and rhyme. Juno gave the proud peacock its train, but when it attempted to fly, it found it had “sacrificed all [its] activity to ostentation”; nevertheless, as reported in a book of rhyme for children published at New York in 1817, “No bird there is beneath the sky, That with the peacock’s plumes can vie.” In the Nestell drawing book, the master has carefully delineated the bird’s principal features—the distinctive crest and the colorful flowing train composed of feathers that sometimes extend more than four feet. Each feather ends in a flat vane decorated with an “eye,” described as “a brilliant spot, enamelled with the most enchanting colours.” A fanciful border also captures some of the brilliance of this feature (fig. 28). Thomas Hope, an English designer of classical and exotic ornament, made good use of fanlike sprays of painted peacock feathers in the tympanums of the barrel-vaulted ceiling of his London drawing room, as illustrated in Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807).
The insect kingdom is represented in the Nestell drawing book by bees and butterflies. A lone drawing of two hives on a platform is similar to that detailed in figure 10. The bee and hive were emblematic of industry, thus a moral lesson frequently was intended, especially for children. The beehive was also a Masonic symbol, and printers often used it as a decorative device. As illustrated, hives usually were made of straw, sometimes woven with vertical ridges, although more commonly formed of horizontal coils.
Representations of butterflies appear just twice in the drawing book—as wispy, principal motifs in figure 29 and as an ornament of secondary rank in figure 24. These lepidopterous creatures are pervasive in the decorative arts, appearing in textiles, prints, ceramics, and wallpaper. Artists’ manuals also provided models for copying.
John Cart Burgess in a Practical Essay on the Art of Flower Painting (1811) expressed the opinion that “choice of subjects in flower-drawing simply consists of a happy selection of the finest and most beautifully picturesque flowers.” The rose is one of the most prominent floral forms in the Nestell drawing book (figs. 30-36). The cabbage rose with its compact, rounded shape probably is the variety depicted, although buds of the moss rose seem indicated in figure 34. Flower books frequently illustrate the moss rose with fuzzy stems and buds. American interest in this flower is denoted in the sizable number of federal-period portraits painted with women and children holding or wearing moss rose buds. Floral subjects, including the rose, also were considered appropriate for ladies’ tambour work and other pictures wrought with the needle.
The acknowledged favorite of painters, roses were considered the most difficult flowers to draw. In the drawing book the blossoms have been reduced to their basic lines, and simple shading with color molds the form. A composition probably related to that in figure 30 is the subject of comment in a young ladies’ handbook of the arts published in 1777. In discus-
sing symbols, the author describes the white rose as “the emblem of purity and love, and the red of beauty and grace.” The decorative form is varied in figure 31 with the addition of cornucopias, symbols of abundance.
Although artfully laid out, the composition of figure 32, unlike that of figure 34, shows little of the chiaroscuro, or “disposition of . . . lights and shadows,” considered essential to imparting “force and distinction” to an ornament. Thus in the opinion of Burgess, the “outline is seen to great disadvantage.” The artist has chosen several noteworthy subjects, however. The large rose at the left is balanced on the right by an equally prominent blossom of the type seen in figure 43. The central figure, a ram’s head, was a decorative motif much admired by architects and designers of the neoclassical period and earlier. Thomas Chippendale designed a ram’s head and swag ornament for the frieze of a marble-slab frame, and in fact figure 32 is so similar in layout and motif that the drawing master may have adapted his design from the third edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director (1762). Another example occurs in a pedestal for a sideboard published by George Smith in 1808.
The simple border design of cabbage roses in figure 33, although rendered in a basically flat style, gains a certain forcefulness of composition from repetition. Strangely, this ornament appears on page 65 of the drawing book rather than as an introductory exercise.
Burgess’s comments on composition in flower painting seem appropriate when considering the bow-tied bouquet in figure 34. Taste, elegance, and simplicity are the elements addressed in his short essay. Color and form were deemed complementary in tasteful arrangements, and irregularity was “considered a peculiar beauty.” The choice of graceful forms and their careful placement in the bouquet introduced elegance. Simplicity was equated with restraint—limiting the bouquet to a few flowers and “those mostly of a large size and such as are without a great multiplicity of colors.” Nestell, the student, made a competent copy of the master’s arrangement. Supplementing the rose are carnations, the subjects of figures 40 and 41, and heart’s ease, or the wild pansy. Carington Bowles, writing in the Florist, provided instructions for coloring the heart’s ease that describe perfectly the illustrated blossoms: “The two upper Petals of this Flower are a rich Purple; the other three Yellow, or Straw Colour, edged and otherwise stained with Purple, or Olive Colour, with very fine Lines of deep Purple, beginning at the Base and spreading delicately over each Petal. The Stalk and Leaves are a pleasant Green.”
In matters of shading, flower painters were advised that “light should generally descend in an oblique direction . . . from the left,” a dictum the drawing master applied to his work. The basket of flowers in figure 35 is bathed in light at the left, causing the container to cast a shadow at the right. The flowers of the composition show good variety in size and form, and a liberal infusion of green leaves has “relieved” the mass of any “gaudy and confused effect.” Burgess instructed that “red flowers . . . be allowed to predominate in a group,” although he would have preferred a few yellow or white blossoms as an accompaniment to lighten the color mass. Blue and purple, he cautioned, “produce [a] Coldness of effect,” and he recommended limited use. The small red blossoms may be flowers of the primrose family. The basket appears to have been the popular container for floral arrangements among designers of ornament. Handled vases, glass bottles, and other vessels were chosen occasionally. Nestell marked the end of his second semester with a short pencil notation in the upper right corner of the drawing.
The drawing master has captured in figure 36 that season of flower growth in which the blossoms “blow in their greatest perfection.” The full rose, “the pride of the garden,” is accompanied by mature tulips of magenta and crimson “streaked according to nature.” The crossed twigs below the rose have tips cut in an elongated spatulate form, a feature that is a convention in flower painting of the period (fig. 38). The tulip of figure 37 differs little in general form, although it is flanked by boldly scrolling leaves and stems that make a strong statement. The effect is heightened by sharp contrasts in color.
The flower depicted in figure 38 is the convolvulus, also called bindweed and, today, morning glory. The artist has taken liberties in rendering the plant—the highly stylized form of the blossom, the coloring of the bloom, and the substitution of elongated leaves for the plant’s usual foliage, a cordate or heart-shaped leaf. In some publications centering on drawing instruction or plant identification, the stamens of the blossoms are prominent, as depicted. The blue pigments recommended for painted blossoms were smalt and Prussian blue. Lake was the red used to tinge the petals. The American variety of convolvulus was apparently more colorful in this respect than the closest European plant.
The foliage accompanying the convolvulus in figure 38 is of two types. One is a long leaf with a slightly serrated edge and a bend near the tip that gives the ornament a three-dimensional quality. The other leaf, one closely related to the foliage in figure 37, acquires its vitality from a prominent center line and deep indentations at the edges, which produce fingerlike projections called raffles. In a guide to drawing foliage published in London in the 1740s, Mathias Lock delineated in four steps the “simple Principle” upon which “all kind of Foliage is formed,” proceeding from a plain looped outline to an “enriched” flowing design with shading and tips bent over in tiny lips. Thomas Sheraton included complex finished examples in the “Accompaniment” at the back of the Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-Book of 1793 (fig. 39). The page is titled “Specimens of Ornament for the Exercise of Learners.” The first and third leaves from the top, identified in the text as a thistle leaf and a parsley leaf, respectively, are closest in design to the raffled leaves of figure 38. The ornaments of the Nestell drawing book indicate that the young student learned his technique from drawing finished specimens.
The carnation, or pink, a member of the dianthus family, appears to have been close in popularity to the rose among ornamental painters and amateur artists. This flower is the lone subject in figures 40 and 41 and provides variety in the mixed bouquets of figures 34 and 35. Carington Bowles of London, who published several books for the instruction of young artists in the late eighteenth century, commented on the carnation as a subject for flower painters: “There is such a variety of Carnations, that a particular Description of them would be endless. . . . Any student may take the Liberty of his Fancy, without the Danger of deviating from what may happen in Nature.” Some variety is demonstrated in the Nestell drawing book. The pinks of figure 40 are bold, brilliant, and colorful in their interpretation, and the swirling foliage appears to be adapted from the work of Sheraton or another late eighteenth-century designer of neoclassical ornament. By contrast, figure 41 is a delicate composition in color, size, and stem.
Of lavender tint shading to pinkish purple, the tiny five-petal blossoms of figure 42 may represent violets. A London publication, The Art of Painting in Water Colours (1797), describes briefly the coloring technique for violets, and a volume of the Botanical Magazine identifies and illustrates the cut-leaved plant from Virginia. The elliptical-shaped leaves of figure 42 are common to other varieties. This delicate, undulating border pattern is given stability and substance by introducing a stick, or baton. Thomas Chippendale delineated several border patterns with rods and foliage in the Director under the title “Designs of Borders for Damask or Paper Hangings.” Sheraton illustrated a related design in the Drawing-Book and commented on the use of straight lines in ornament: “Some continuance of a right [straight] line is beautiful; but it ought quickly to be broken in . . . compositions, whether perpendicular or horizontal.” A remarkably similar, delicate composition appears as a panel ornament in the posts of an elaborate bedstead designed and dated by George Smith in 1804.
The repeating flower design of figure 43 appears at first inspection to be an artist’s whimsy. The prominent pincushion-like center and brilliant orange-red and yellow coloring suggest a more definite inspiration, however. The sunflower (helianthos) is one possibility. A London publication of 1759 illustrates a specimen, and emblem books of the period picture and describe the plant as a symbol of gratitude. Other identifications have merit. The helenium and gaillardia also are similar in appearance to figure 43, and both are native American plants. The helenium was illustrated and described in the Flora of North America in 1821; the name originated in Greek mythology. The gaillardia commemorates an eighteenth-century French botanist.
The graduated, lobelike fingers of the blossoms rising from leafy beds in the border design of figure 44 represent the blooms of the honeysuckle plant before the flowers have acquired their typical trumpet-shaped form. To color the flower, an early nineteenth-century publication suggested that the ornament be “washed over with a light tint of Gamboge,” a reddish yellow pigment, followed by a second tint of lake red. Dark touches were added using a mixture of lake and sepia. Sap green, a color used in flower painting and print coloring, was recommended for the foliage. Nestell’s drawing master followed this plan in coloring the design. The honeysuckle, a popular subject in flower painting, achieved considerable status as an ornament among architects and designers, to whom it was known as the anthemion.
Figure 45 is an unusual composition among the designs in the drawing book because it is formed principally of feathers. Two flower stalks and a large, centered bow-knot complete the design. The pastel colors are delicate yet forceful: The large white feathers are edged in pinkish red with pale blue shafts, the small feathers are pale yellow edged with medium green to harmonize with the stems and leaves of the foliage, the flower stalks are white shaded with gray, and the bow is golden yellow. In a book of ornament published in 1764, Pouget fils of Paris illustrated headdresses for women made of feathers, flowers, and bow-knots. The bow-knot became a popular motif in rococo ornament in Europe before the reign of Louis XVI and remained prominent during the neoclassical period. Thomas Chippendale designed furnishings from chair backs to crests for pier glasses with bow-knot motifs. Ornamental bouquets are frequently accompanied by bow-knots, as illustrated in figures 45 and 34. The loops of the bow usually are large and open, the ribbon, frequently crinkled.
Borders figure prominently in the Nestell drawing book. They comprise about one-quarter of the ornaments and include several subject categories. Of the eight border patterns illustrated with floral and leaf forms, four contain reasonably identifiable plant motifs (figs. 33, 42–44). Four others employ stylized leaf forms as decorative units (figs. 46-49). Figure 46 is bold in color and design. The ruled and stippled background provides a striking contrast to the dark leafage highlighted by spots of bright red. In “reading” the design, it is the inverted, V-shaped peaks anchored with green at the bottom rather than the broad, U-shaped valleys that form the principal units. A strong light source is directed from the left. Leaf motifs of this type appear in architectural borders as early as the Romanesque period, although it was the eighteenth century before the pattern achieved its greatest popularity in architecture and as a border for picture frames.
Figure 47 is a whimsy without an apparent prototype. The delicate red-colored upper element, which appears to be a feather, is balanced by pendent buds of tassel form. A more abstract version of this diagonal leaf-and-volute motif forms the basic pattern of figure 48. The ruled ground gives sharp definition to the bold, wavelike, scrolling elements of the design. The pattern was popular in the neoclassical period in one variation or another. Michelangelo Pergolesi, an Italian engraver who resettled in London, occasionally used delicate plant forms for ornamental borders of this general type in designs issued between 1777 and 1801. A closer interpretation appears as a border decoration in a Grecian-style jar illustrated by Thomas Hope in 1807 in his trendsetting volume on interior decoration. Another pertinent illustration in the book is the cyma-curved back of an avant-garde Grecian seating piece with a volute top, which exhibits much of the character and forcefulness of the scrolling element in figure 48.
The border elements in figure 49 are essentially the same as those in figure 48—a cyma-curved leaf terminated by volutes—although the attributes are wholly different: The arches are close to the vertical and more compact; the slender leaves are of two types, and the volutes are oval; the background is plain. Sheraton, Pergolesi, and other designers of the neoclassical period produced many variations of this general pattern, some of great delicacy. Sheraton’s design in figure 50 employs realistic plant material, including blossoms for volutes instead of ovals with stylized ornament. The author identifies the design only as a border for japanning or inlaying. An inscription at the top of the page in the drawing book notes the commencement of the second quarter of instruction on September 1, 1811.
Baskets and other vessels filled with fruit are less frequent subjects of ornamental work than containers of flowers (figs. 51, 52). The selection in the drawing book includes bunches of grapes, strawberries, cherries, plums, peaches, and pears or apples. The lobed form left of center in figure 51 is either a small melon or a gourd. A pear-shaped form in the upright basket of figure 52 may be another gourd, as the irregular surface is wartlike. The drawing master has introduced green leaves to both compositions to vary the texture and color and perhaps to address a shortcoming described by one author as the “great sameness in the form of fruit.” The author, in acquainting “the learner with the study of fruit,’’ carefully instructed that “to give roundness . . . a strong light must be left in the centre.” The grapes, and to a lesser extent the strawberries, of figure 51 have been highlighted in this manner. Drawing manuals generally provide instructions for coloring fruit. Lake red frequently supplied the bloom, or rosy tint, on the surfaces of light-colored fruit, such as pears, peaches, and apples. Artists achieved a realistic effect in strawberries by stippling the surface with white and “thin Lake.”
The design sources of the bundlelike ornaments in the Nestell drawing book are uncertain (figs. 53, 55), although figure 53 may be adapted from an element in a book of furniture designs. The turned and carved arms of a bed stool or window stool illustrated in an early nineteenth-century volume published at Rome are similar and suggest the relevance of this type of source (fig. 54). Of contemporary date is a plate from George Smith’s A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807) that delineates a footstool designed with roller ends of comparable form. In the drawing book a central knot secures ogee-profile leaf clusters to which the imaginative painter has introduced grapes at the tips. The colorful leaves of figure 55, the stems cut in the elongated spatulate form of figures 36 and 38, provide a casing for the brilliant pinkish red seedpod. The ornamenter’s careful use of highlighting has created a surface iridescence.
Nuts and leaves of two patterns painted yellow and green form a compact border design in figure 56. A subtle detail is the loss of one nut from its shell. Rather than botanically correct, the leaves are principally ornamental. Reasonably close prototypes for a decorative pattern of the type exist in several branches of the arts. Architectural moldings are one important source, and metal mounts for furniture are another. Printers used variant designs as ornaments, and Rudolph Ackermann offered an embossed pattern of leaves and acorns, possibly for use in what is termed today craft activity. Printed textiles may also have had some influence on the design. A dense pattern with trees, titled “Royal Oak and Ivy’’ and produced at Bannister Hall, Lancashire, England, in 1799, has acorns of similar character, and the scalloped-border oak leaves are similar to the green foliage in this composition. Berries sometimes replace acorns in the general design.
Of all the fruits used for ornament, the grape was the most common (figs. 57–59). The undulating vine of figure 57 with its large leaves and bunches of fruit is the type of pattern encountered most frequently. Thomas Hope used a related border in the neck of a vase he “ornamented with Bacchanalian masks, vine wreaths, and other emblems of Bacchus,” the Greek god of wine. The grape motif was common in Roman architecture, and its use continued into the Byzantine period. During the late eighteenth century Chippendale employed a running vine occasionally in carved decoration, and a similar design appears in an early nineteenth-century Italian book of ornamental patterns for furnishings. Ackermann offered an embossed example. The compositions of figures 58 and 59 are variations on the same decorative scheme. Rather than borders, the ornaments are self-contained units designed to fill specific spaces. The C-scrolled elements of figure 59 have a shell-like quality without actually having conchological validity.
The six pineapples lined up soldier fashion in figure 60 form an unusual border design. The term pineapple originally identified the fruit of the pine tree, that is, the pine cone. Because of its resemblance to the pine cone, the fruit of the tropical American bromeliad was named pineapple. The drawing master has ably recorded the salient characteristics of the exotic food: the color, the segmented skin, the tuft of stiff leaves at the top, the radiating bed of elongated leaves at the base. The cohesiveness of the border is assured by the leaf-formed, swagged rope that links the fruit. Inspiration for the design could have sprung from many sources.
As early as 1657 Richard Ligon drew attention to the pineapple in his history of Barbados. The Dutch may already have been cultivating the fruit in Surinam, and before the end of the century pineapple culture had been introduced to the hothouses of Europe. Among the gentry in early eighteenth-century Virginia, the pineapple was sufficiently well known to be incorporated into the interior or exterior architecture of several colonial mansions built along the James River. Knowledge of the pineapple was disseminated even more broadly as the century advanced through importations of the fruit, publication of new treatises, circulation of botanical prints containing images of the fruit, and use of the motif on a variety of household objects. Josiah Wedgwood’s factory even produced a line of representational pineapple creamware in the third quarter of the century. Before 1800 John Hewson, a calico printer of Philadelphia, produced a block-printed linen handkerchief with a bold pineapple border; in the early nineteenth century the fruit sometimes appeared as a decorative element in schoolgirl needlework. As summed up by one modern author: “The fruit was, again and again, imprinted, impressed, painted onto, or sculpted on all manner of objects, buildings, fabric, wallpaper, and momentoes.”
The wreath was a favorite ornament of designers, judging by the frequency of its use (fig. 61). The circular band of interwoven leaves or flowers served in ancient classical cultures as a mark of honor when worn on the head as a chaplet. The chaplet also is borne as a charge in a shield of arms; as a heraldic ornament for the head, it was “granted to gallant knights for acts of courtesy.” The late eighteenth-century Italian designer of ornament, Michelangelo Pergolesi, frequently employed the wreath, to which he added bow-knots, berries, and acorns as accompaniments. The Nestell drawing master chose similar embellishments, adding a leafy frond and augmenting the circular arrangement by crossing the frond and a stem of oak leaves and acorns to form a base. The elongated spatulate tips of the stems are a typical artistic convention of the period. Thomas Hope’s Household Furniture, another potential design source, circulated in America shortly after its publication in London in 1807. Of the sixty plates in Hope’s work, ten contain a wreath motif. In 1809 Rudolph Ackermann, a contemporary of Hope’s, began publication of his popular journal, The Repository, which contains hand-colored plates of furniture. Early issues promoted the Grecian style and included the wreath motif.
The subject of shells is appropriately introduced by a pair of mermaids, imaginary sea creatures that were the sirens of classical mythology and also appear in heraldry (fig. 62). Interest in collecting shells was already well established internationally when L. D. Chapin advertised at Providence in 1825 that he had received “from the Pacific Ocean, a large collection of rare and elegantly variegated Shells, consisting of numerous specimens of multivalves, bivalves, and univalves.” Many artists’ instruction books of the neoclassical period devote a section to the topic of drawing shells, and a few technical publications deal with the study of conchology.
Five pages in the Nestell drawing book are devoted to shells, underscoring the claim by one author that “shells are so rich and varied in form and colour, that all persons that have a taste for drawing Flowers, have a desire to depict these beautiful marine productions.” The Nestell drawings offer limited variety, however. The shell supported by the mermaids appears to be a univalve of the genus Murex, identified by its spiral top and egg-shaped body with an opening on one side. The hairy material is seaweed.
The shells of figure 63 consist of two fancifully drawn conical specimens, probably representing what one author termed the “spotted Murex,” flanking a scallop shell. Shading for shells, which are opaque, was “required to be much stronger than [for] Flowers.” Whereas students were advised that “the colouring on the scallop is very delicate,” the same tint used for creating shadow was used to form the ribs of the shell. In coloring the shells of figure 63, the master selected a bright palette: pale yellow with pink interiors for the conical specimens; white, shaded gray with a pink scroll at the base for the scallop shell; red and green for the seaweed. Another drawing book ornament with a Murex at the center is more gaily colored.
The handsomely drawn spotted shell at the center of figure 64 appears to be a cowrie, although the artist has taken liberties with the shape. The form may be a stylized representation common to ornamental design of the period, because a printed textile dating a few years later is adorned with similar shells. A small, spotted Murex is at either side, the color slightly more intense than that of figure 63. The foliage also shows more imagination and, by its use of seedpods, adds considerable vitality to the ornament. The large shell is one the author of the Conchologist (1834) likely would have recommended for “a conspicuous place in public collections.” By contrast, the border composition of figure 65 is conceived of as a purely fanciful ornament with little attempt at reality. The stylized scallop shells are colored either in bright pink with light brown or in shades of blue with pink. An undulating vine of seaweed ties the isolated elements together.
Writing more than a century ago, F. Edward Hulme commented on “the influence that geometrical forms have at all times exercised in decorative art.” Without question, one of the most common ornaments of this genre through the ages has been a border popularly called a Greek key (fig. 66). The key, which in its many variations is part of a larger body of open designs called frets, is composed principally of short, straight bars. The bars in a Greek key are placed at right angles to one another. The drawing book key, one of two of the same simple form, has a light, patterned ground of vermiculated, or wormlike, design. Modest shading creates a three-dimensional figure.
The easiest way to lay out a key, or fret, is to use a grid. The patterns are endless, as first demonstrated in the cultures of the Greeks and Romans. Further variation is achieved by patterning the ground or the bars. One special effect simulates a raised molding. Many late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century designers of ornament and furnishings employed the key border: Rudolph Ackermann, Robert and James Adam, C. A. Busby, John Crunden, Thomas Hope, Michelangelo Pergolesi, and George Smith, to name a few. Key borders also played an important role in typography.
Figures 67 and 68 are guilloche borders, defined as ornamental designs formed of loosely interlaced bands, or ribbons. These examples are just two of the many patterns available. The pointed ellipses of figure 67, which are rare, are interwoven with a second band to form a double guilloche. Guilloches composed of circular or oval loops are the most common pattern. Figure 68 illustrates additional choices: variation in loop size, a textured band—this one simulating a rope—and ornament introduced to the loop centers.
The circular guilloche, which has strong roots in ancient cultures and reappears in Renaissance art, is the one later architects and designers looked to principally for ornamental embellishment. An eighteenth-century French sourcebook for artists illustrates several guilloche patterns, among them one composed of “Roses and Ribbons.” Thomas Chippendale employed the guilloche in some of his executed commissions, and similar borders in wood and plaster were offered in English trade catalogues of the late eighteenth century. Both Thomas Hope and Rudolph Ackermann made extensive use of the star, a feature of figure 68, although as an ornament independent of the guilloche. Floral forms were the popular choice for the interstices of this border, as demonstrated in various sources.
The ornament of figure 69 is an unusual one, appearing principally in printers’ borders and architectural moldings. The figure in the drawing book appears to represent two tubes of printed cloth twisted together to form a ropelike band. The design may have a direct source in heraldry. There, one side of a twisted wreath serves as a support for a crest, an ornament placed above a coat of arms. The heraldic wreath is further described as “a chaplet of two different-coloured silks wound round each other.” Continuing in the vein of textile arts as inspiration for the Nestell drawing master, figure 70 appears to have its source in the upholstery trade. This delicately colored ribbon of netting is a type used in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries principally to trim window and bed hangings. Thomas Hope and George Smith illustrated examples of the same general pattern.
The trophy, a collection of objects forming an ornament usually based on a single theme, was a popular embellishment in the arts during the eighteenth century and later, although its roots lie in earlier periods (figs. 71–73). Many themes were fashionable, including love, war, agriculture, the sciences, and the theater. The subjects illustrated in the Nestell drawing book—music and the hunt—are represented by some of the most colorful and prominent accouterments found in these thematic groups. Principal designers of the period included the trophy in their published engravings, among them Ackermann, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Hope, and Pergolesi. Designs for trophies also appear in English trade catalogues, and the French produced other examples. Trophies occur with some regularity in printed textiles.
The trophy of music is one of the most carefully drawn and colorful designs in the Nestell drawing book (fig. 71). A survey of more than a dozen published contemporary examples sheds light on object selection. Horns are almost always present, although four is a large number. By contrast, the tambourine is uncommon. A book of music appears in about half the compositions, and a garnish of leaves is a frequent choice.
The wreath as a unifying element in the trophy is particularly effective when combined with the slender accouterments of the hunt (fig. 72). A bow and quiver of arrows are usual selections; the bludgeon is a rarity. The typical quiver is a tapered rectangular container with paneled sides, often terminated by a leafy cup and button at the base. The stylized hunting bow is a double ogee with a straight midsection. The drawing master likely made a selection of elements from several sources and combined them to suit his fancy. Circulating European design materials were supplemented in 1809 by a specimen book of letters and ornament issued by the Binny and Ronaldson type foundry of Philadelphia. One of the ornaments in the volume is a trophy with a rectangular quiver. The drawing book instructor’s masterstroke was the addition of a red ribbon to the composition.
The wreath and a crossed quiver and bow are elements in a second trophy centered in the hunt (fig. 73). The composition is different from that of figure 72 because it is dominated by a lion’s mask contained within the wreath. The lion’s mask, sometimes interpreted as a leopard’s face, was part of the ornamental baggage of architecture and the decorative arts in ancient Roman culture, and use of the motif continued through the Byzantine, Romanesque, and Renaissance periods. Renewed interest in the ancient classical cultures in the late eighteenth century brought the mask again to the attention of designers—Chippendale, Pergolesi, Hope, Smith, and Ackermann. The ornament was interpreted in several mediums: carved wood, cast plaster, cast or stamped metal, and paint on wood. Ornaments from any of these mediums or from a published source could have caught the attention of the drawing master. Of particular note is the design of furniture hardware after 1800. Lion’s-mask drawer pulls, sometimes combined with cast lion’s-paw feet, adorned some of the finest case furniture, especially that made in New York City, where Christian Nestell attended drawing school.
The neoclassical theme is a prominent one in the Nestell drawing book, although some motifs occur in ornaments dominated by other subjects or are better studied in different categories. Several motifs, in particular, can be cited: the cornucopia (fig. 31); the ram’s head (fig. 32); the wreath (figs. 61, 72, 73); the honeysuckle, or acanthus (fig. 44); and the key and guilloche borders (figs. 66, 68). Neoclassicism had its genesis in the mid-eighteenth century when reawakened interest in classical architecture and activity at archaeological sites in Europe began to impact the arts. The neoclassical style held sway for almost a century both in Europe and America.
The griffin, a mythological creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, is the subject of figure 74. The beast in its several variations was employed in ancient Greek and Roman art, following which interest waned until revived during the Italian Renaissance. Griffins and related beasts became popular motifs for architectural friezes and tablets in the neoclassical period. One such design illustrated by Thomas Sheraton in The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book (1793) appears to have had widespread influence, particularly among ornamental painters in America. Sheraton also commented on the griffin, identifying it as a figure “employed by the antiques in their decorations. . . . They suppose it to watch over golden mines and hid treasures.” He added, perhaps with tongue in cheek, “These, if you please, may be introduced into subjects intended to represent covetousness; or they may be placed over cabinets where treasure is kept.” Doubtless, such symbolism was lost on most American consumers of furniture and furnishings, as it was on their suppliers.
The seated, occasionally standing, figure of the griffin usually is depicted as one of a facing pair and placed amid lush, scrolling foliage (fig. 74). An urn or other ornament is a central feature in the composition. The foliage in the drawing book design is restrained, confined to the base of the urn, although frequently the beasts’ tails are replaced by oversized leafy scrolls containing floral forms. Compositions of this type fall within a class of ornament called arabesques. These collections of “foliage, fruits, beasts of every species, and imaginary creatures, intermingled” were the subject of comment by a nineteenth-century English author of a guide to drawing. Balance of composition was essential “that the heavier parts may sustain the lighter.” Unity of design, lightness, and grace were other attributes of a good composition. The author warned that “foliage . . . ought to be drawn from nature” and advocated the use of “long . . . volute scrolls” eminating “from each side of a reeded and cupped pedestal.” On the subject of color he advised “that in ancient decorative painting of this description, the beauty existed by the balance of colour being strictly attended to.” The Nestell drawing master has heightened the effect of his composition by choosing a monochromatic color scheme.
Rather than an imitation of a section of column or a reeded bedpost, the ornament in figure 75 seems based on an ancient Roman fasces, a bundle of rods bound together and containing an axe. The fasces, borne upright on a stick, was a badge of authority for Roman magistrates, and examples are found in Roman art and architecture. A French book of designs for ornaments and moldings dating to the 1750s or slightly later illustrates a horizontal figure described as a “bundle of sticks with intertwined leaves” that has the basic features of figure 75, including bands of raffled leaves. The leaves of the Nestell ornament include both lightly serrated and raffled examples and can be compared to the foliage in figure 38. Textiles present another possibility as a design source. Shortly after 1800 a new textile pattern called a “pillar print” came onto the market in England. Although the simulated columns of these printed fabrics do not taper, they are punctuated by bunches of flowers rather than spiraling leaves. Another potential source is published furniture designs. Ackermann’s The Repository, for example, included large fasces at the front corners of a pier table suitable for “an officer of high rank” or a “military gentleman”; however, that particular design dates several years later than the Nestell drawing book.
Thomas Sheraton was anything but reticent in expressing his views on the appropriateness of mythological subjects in painted ornament. Commenting on the story of Diana and Endymion, he noted the vast number of other such tales and proclaimed them “merely the fabrication of ancient poets and idolators forming to themselves innumerable gods, according to their vain imaginations, and which now, only serve to try the painter’s skill in decorating our walls.” The female image of figure 76, which clutches a trident and rides across the waves in a dolphin-drawn, shell-like chariot, appears to be Amphitrite, wife of Neptune. Neptune’s symbol is the trident, and he paid court to Amphitrite riding on a dolphin. A subtle feature is the use of trident heads as spokes in the chariot wheels.
The chariot of the sun god Apollo is the likely subject of figure 77. The disarray of the horses supported on clouds may be an indirect reference to the story of Apollo’s son Phaethon, who was granted permission to drive the chariot for one day. Phaethon was an inept charioteer and lost control of the horses, threatening the world with fire. Jupiter stepped in and hurled him into the River Po.
The nature of the material in figures 76 and 77 suggests that the drawing master had explicit models from which to copy or adapt his ornaments. Potential sources are broad and varied, since public interest in classical subjects was intense in the early nineteenth century. Printed textiles and block-printed papers for bandboxes sometimes display mythological subjects as do design books of the period. Sheraton, for example, designed a tablet with a representation of Diana and Endymion. Diana as huntress also charges across a panel scene in Pergolesi’s book of ornament. Books of emblems and devices provided vignettes appropriate for copying. Phaethon is the subject of one. In a modest-sized catalogue of embossed ornament numbering ten pages, Ackermann illustrated four figures from mythology riding in chariots; figures in the vignettes include Neptune and Juno.
The American constitution was ratified by a majority of the original thirteen states in 1788 and placed into effect the following year. One of the emblems soon associated with the new country was the American bald eagle, a distinct species of bird from the heraldic eagle of prominence in European art. The eagle and the motto “E Pluribus Unum” were adopted for the official seal of the United States. In 1790 engraver Amos Doolittle depicted the American eagle—complete with shield body, talons clutching arrows and olive branches, and beak with banner and motto—in the pediment of the old City Hall building in New York to mark the inauguration of George Washington as president the previous year. The bird took flight quickly, and it soon appeared “in all sorts of unofficial places as a decorative device.”
Pewterers were among the earliest American craftsmen to employ the eagle as a device to mark their work. Some examples date from the early 1790s. When Charles Cotton Hayward, a chairmaker of Charlestown, Massachusetts, ordered a trade card advertisement sometime between 1803 and 1811, he chose a design with a large, spread eagle perched on the back of a long settee. Merchants also used the eagle as an advertising device. About 1812 Peter Bauduy of Wilmington, Delaware, designed a label for the woolen mill of Victor du Pont, his partner’s brother. Above frolicking cherubs and the family’s merino ram, an eagle surveys the scene while supporting a banner bearing the company name. By this date American type founders, including Binny and Ronaldson of Philadelphia, produced eagles as part of a broad selection of ornament for commercial use. The eagles in the Nestell drawing book are representative of the many variations that circulated in the public sector, some with patriotic accompaniments—a shield, the balance of justice, a banner with a motto (figs. 78, 79).
Cherubs, also known as cupids, boys, putti, and amorini in the annals of art and decoration, are the subject of two ornaments with patriotic overtones in the Nestell drawing book (figs. 80, 81). Contemporary published manuals provided instructions for drawing the human form and examples to copy, including some for the infant figure. Directions provided by Thomas Sheraton correspond exactly with the images in the drawing book:
|As boys or cupids are frequently introduced in ornaments, it is proper that the learner should take notice of their proportions and general appearance [and] the general cast of these figures; the head is large and round; the neck scarcely distinguishable between the head and shoulders; no joints appearing in the arms or legs scarcely; the ankle covered with flesh, and the whole leg thick and massy.|
The floral swag in figure 80 relates to that in figure 32, the rose again a prominent flower. The urn commemorating George Washington, a popular theme in all mediums during the federal period, may be based in profile on a ceramic or metal form. George Hepplewhite illustrated a similar urn as an ornament for a tea caddy, and related shapes were delineated in trade catalogues of ornament. The floating cherubs of figure 81 are linked by a bright red banner with a patriotic motto extolling “independence.” As the spelling in the banner and in that of figure 79 clearly demonstrates, the word has challenged orthographers in all ages.
The art of imitating the grain and color of natural substances is represented in the Nestell drawing book; however, except for determining that one image represents wood (fig. 82) and the other marble (fig. 83), a more precise identification is elusive. Regarding the imitation of fancy woods, Nathaniel Whittock, author of an early nineteenth-century guide for painters, advised the practioner to “apply to nature herself,” although clearly that is not the case here. In the absence of original material, Whittock provided instructions and sample illustrations. The color of the work in figure 82 best follows that described for maple or oak. The workman started with a light straw-colored ground, then worked the figure in shades varying from yellow to brown. As advised in other subject areas of ornamental painting, practice was a requisite to developing good technique. The quarter-fans in the corners of the panel, which represent inlay, provide a striking contrast.
The center panel of figure 83 most clearly approximates sienna marble in coloring but not in veining. The ground, which consists of straw yellow shaded to light mustard, is contrasted with splashes of light brownish red and muted green accented by subtle, medium brown veining. Whittock advised starting with pure yellow ochre for the ground and then introducing burnt sienna for the red and Prussian blue, which produced green when it interacted with the yellow ground. The side panels, which contain a golden star, are mottled in shades of light and medium blue-green. The color varies from Whittock’s descriptions for painting green marble—verd antique, Egyptian green, and serpentine—which all start with a black ground. The three marbleized panels are effectively displayed on a background of raffled white leaves penciled in a dark color and placed, in turn, on a dark green ground.
Upon reflecting on the diverse variety of subject matter contained in the Nestell drawing book, a statement by Thomas Sheraton seems appropriate: “To be fully qualified for ornamental decorations is to be acquainted with every branch of drawing.”
The Christian M. Nestell Drawing Book: Design Application
Ornament in decorative art is [that] element which adds an embellishment of beauty in detail. [It] is in its nature accessory; . . . it does not exist apart from its application. . . . Ornament belongs to the very inception of [a] thing [and] is good only in so far as it is an indispensable part of something. . . . The test of ornament is its fitness. It must occupy a space, fulfill a purpose, be adapted to the material in which and the process by which it is executed.
The ornaments in the Nestell drawing book have a potentially broad range of application, and many are fully suited for use on various materials. A principal emphasis in this study is the embellishment of furniture and wooden objects, since when training as an ornamental painter the eighteen-year-old Nestell likely had his craft objectives in sight. His known activity in Providence in the 1820s revolves primarily around the sale, repair, painting, and ornamenting of furniture—principally chairs—and around gilding. In exploring the various ways the designs in the drawing book functioned as ornament, the discussion will focus on records and objects of contemporary date, although neither will be specific necessarily to the place, date, or exact content of the Nestell document given the limitations of resource materials.
Newspaper notices of the early nineteenth century provide an initial focus on the use of painted scenes in the decoration of furniture. As early as January 1803, Hugh and John Finlay of Baltimore offered local residents furniture “with or without views adjacent to the city.” By November 1805, customers had a broader choice between “real Views” and “Fancy Landscapes.” The Finlay brothers’ list of furniture suitable for receiving this embellishment is impressive: card, pier, dressing, writing, shaving, and work tables; wash and candle stands; cane- and rush-bottom fancy chairs, Windsor chairs, settees, and window seats; fire and candle screens.
Chairmakers in New York were quick to note the novelty and suitability of landscape scenes for furniture, and they began to incorporate them into their work. One design in the Nestell drawing book is framed in a tablet-style crest piece copied directly from a Baltimore chair (fig. 17). Within the banded and penciled border surrounding the distinctive panel, a central landscape contains buildings of notable European character. The eight-pointed stars at either end appear in another drawing book design (fig. 68). Baltimore chairmaking remained a strong influence on New York design for several decades, as indicated in the accounts of Benjamin Branson who in 1835 prepared Baltimore “stuff” (chair parts) for sale to other chairmakers and paid to have Baltimore-style chairs ornamented. Landscape vignettes enhance several New York fancy chairs that have survived with their original decoration intact. New York chairmakers Stephen Wheaton and Robert Davies further confirmed local interest in this type of decoration in June 1817 when advertising “an elegant assortment of Curl’d Maple, Plain Painted and Ornamented, [and] Landscape . . . Chairs . . . all of the newest fashion.”
The painted panel in the center back of a New York fancy chair, one from a set of six with a Van Renssalaer family history (fig. 84), relates in general composition and features to two waterscapes in the drawing book (figs. 14, 15). In all these scenes a course of water flows toward the viewer, and in two views a wooden bridge crosses a waterfall. The chair back and figure 15 share common elements in a rocky outcropping supporting a tree and other foliage and the presence of small human figures in the view.
Landscapes occasionally appear on other wooden household objects, such as large lidded storage chests and small boxes for sewing equipment or trinkets. Talented schoolgirls sometimes ornamented the personal items. Other surfaces bearing landscape decoration were part of interior architecture or closely associated with it—overmantels, fireboards to close the hearth in warm weather, and window cornices. The shade that hung within a window frame provided another surface for decoration. Artist and ornamenter Ezra Ames painted “3 pair of window Shades” in 1792 for Daniel Waldo while working in Worcester, Massachusetts, although the nature of the decoration is unknown. A brisk business for a number of ornamental painters was the preparation of reverse-painted glass tablets for use in looking glasses and timepieces, primarily the shelf clock and the banjo clock. Occasionally a tall case clock exhibits a small landscape vignette in the arch above the dial.
Representations of the animal kingdom are uncommon in the decorative arts of the federal period except as adjuncts to other ornament, the landscape in particular. Rufus Porter, a prolific itinerant New England mural artist, painted some landscapes with grazing horses or cattle. Other artists included grazing sheep in their pastoral scenes. Several Windsor chairs retaining original decoration include animals as part of a landscape scene in the crest. A hunter and horse are a feature of one. A horse-drawn wagon and a farmer driving cattle are illustrated in two chairs from a suite of seating furniture.
Several manuscript references broaden the picture. In 1800 Ezra Ames, then a resident of Albany, New York, charged a customer for “painting a Lion,” although both the form and purpose of the ornament are unknown. Possibly the figure was for a signboard. More explanatory are the records of Daniel Rea, Jr., an ornamental painter of Boston whose accounts for 1788 describe a sizable job of “painting a Room and Entry Floor Cloath 35 yd.” The decoration was “a Poosey Cat on One Cloath and a Leetel Spannil on ye other.” George Davidson, a fellow member of the ornamental painting community in Boston, included coach painting among his customer services. After painting Isaac Tapley’s chaise a “Dark Colour,” he added a landscape to the back and a “haire” to each side.
Figures of birds appear with frequency in printed textiles and wallpapers; however, they are rare in painted ornament, except for the eagle, which is treated here as a patriotic symbol. Painted feathers embellish some furniture, although carving is the usual medium. An example of painted feather decoration occurs in the work of chairmaker Samuel Gragg of Boston who patented a classic bentwood chair in 1808. A peacock plume reminiscent of those in a Nestell border design (fig. 28) provides a strong center-back focus (fig. 85). The pair of back-to-back peacocks in another drawing book design (fig. 27) is conventionally posed, as indicated in other sources. An overmantel from the John Peterson house in Duxbury, Massachusetts, painted about 1800 by Rufus Hatheway, contains naively drawn peacocks in a similar attitude. The pose is repeated on a paper-covered bandbox ornamented with a pair of grouse. In a quick flight into the insect world, it can be noted that the beehive as a decorative feature for furniture probably was more common than it appears today. A New York fancy chair, possibly dating as early as 1815, has a gold-leaf beehive flanked by cornucopias as a crest ornament (see fig. 10).
A floral figure was by far the most popular subject for ornamenting all types of utilitarian and fancy furnishings in the federal period. The list of objects embellished in this manner is not unlike that noted for landscape ornament. Seating pieces and tables are again the principal furniture forms, added to which are bedposts with spiral decoration and pianos with ornamented name boards. The glass tablets in looking glasses and wall and shelf clocks often have floral decoration, as do the enameled dials of tall case clocks. Architectural features enriched with floral ornament were prominent, the previous list augmented by wall painting in imitation of paper. Extending the range of small decorated items are tea boards and wooden equipment for the hearth, including brushes and hand bellows.
At best, manuscript and other references to floral work are brief and often indefinite; yet, there are clues to build on. The Finlay brothers of Baltimore offered a range of furniture forms embellished with “Flowers” as an alternative to their landscape views, including “Flower Borders of entire new patterns” for bed and window cornices. At Boston affluent customers had other options. Daniel Rea, Jr., painted “a sett of Bed Cornices in Imitation of the Copperplate” in 1793 for 24s., the equivalent of four days’ pay for a working man with a trade. George Davidson followed suit and was also prepared to paint “Window Cornices in imitation of Calico.” Both copperplate and calico were popular printed cotton fabrics used for bed and window hangings and furniture covers. Floral patterns were the principal and most popular designs.
Silas Cheney, a cabinetmaker who worked in Litchfield, Connecticut, in the early nineteenth century, made several references in his accounts to “sprigged” dining Windsors, which he priced substantially above the average cost of Windsor chairs. A sprig is defined as “a stemmed flower” or “a spray of a plant.” The decoration enriched either the turned work of the chairs or the cross slats used as crest pieces after 1800. Titus Preston of Wallingford, Connecticut, was more specific when identifying the striping on a group of Windsor chairs as “a vine on the front of the bow & legs.” Work tables, chamber tables, and washstands occasionally have leafy vines spiraling up the legs.
The rose was the popular choice in floral decoration for painted furnishings, as even a brief survey will confirm. George Davidson, who did a brisk business in coach painting, filled the request of one customer for a “shais [chaise] Body Painted Green, Curtain on Back and Rose on sides.” Although Davidson’s roses may have been single blossoms only, swags, sprays, bouquets, clusters, compositions, and borders were equally common options. The swagged rose decoration on the top of a circular card table of Connecticut origin (fig. 86) interrelates with elements in several rose designs from the Nestell drawing book. One is the double-swag ornament with ram’s head in figure 32, its rings substituting for bows. The rose composition in the left swag and the blossoms on the card table are similar in character, an affinity shared also by figure 30, the central element in figure 36, and the roses in the cornucopias of figure 31.
A composition of cornucopias and roses is the principal decoration on the crest of a Windsor chair made in New York City a few years after Nestell completed his drawing book (fig. 87). Although the ornament of the chair is more stylized than that of the drawing (fig. 31), the horns in both have twisted bodies marked by prominent ridges. The ribbon, large rose, and general organization of the ornament in figure 34 have their counterparts on the lid of a maple box assigned to Salem, Massachusetts, and dating to the early nineteenth century. Another visual link exists between figure 35 and a display of flowers in a woven basket painted on the fall of a drop-leaf table of Connecticut origin. A floral composition on the drawer front is an expansion of the design in figure 30.
Tulips appear in several drawing book ornaments (figs. 36, 37), although they are rare on painted furniture dating to the early nineteenth century. An unusually detailed Boston advertisement suggests that the flower had more currency as decoration than present evidence indicates. In early December 1810, Nolen and Gridley “received from one of the first manufactories at New-York—300 Fancy chairs, of different patterns.” Among them was a pattern identified as “Tulip Top.” The term could describe a shaped crest; however, there are no candidates among surviving chairs. Since other patterns on the list were created with paint, such seems to have been the intent of the description. Most contemporary floral patterns are described in records in general terms only, as for instance the “12 Slat Back (Flower)” chairs made in the Newark, New Jersey, shop of David Alling in 1817.
Considerably more popular were chair patterns containing the convolvulus, or morning glory, although most are of simpler design than figure 38. An exception is the chair crest of figure 88, an example of uncommon vitality. A three-dimensional quality is achieved through the use of modeled elements, twisted leaves, and background shading. The effect is heightened by a monochromatic color scheme accented in gold.
The feather pattern of figure 45 also may have been intended for the crest piece of a chair; however, it would have served equally well on the skirt or drawer front of a table. One of the workmen employed occasionally in the chairmaking facility of Thomas Boynton at Windsor, Vermont, in 1814–1815 concentrated on decorating and varnishing chairs. One of his tasks was “Ornamenting feathers.’’
Linear designs as principal features on furniture are rarer than self-contained compositions. The running border of figure 49 is well suited, however, because the design has a definite start and finish. When transferred to a chair back (fig. 89) and defined by a penciled frame, it has the character of a composition. Several chairs retain decoration of this type, suggesting that the pattern was relatively common. The design in one crest without a penciled border ends in twisted cones, the points directed outward. The chair in figure 89, made and decorated in New York City, is contemporary with the Nestell drawing book.
Second to floral decorations, fruit, usually accompanied by leaves, was the most common ornament on painted objects in the early nineteenth century. Fruit was also a popular subject in the medium of stenciling. Grapes are depicted most frequently, followed by melons. The range of forms and surfaces ornamented with fruit basically is that described for floral decoration.
Six years before Nestell began his studies with a drawing master, John and Hugh Finlay of Baltimore offered their customers furnishings “enriched with Gold and Painted Fruit.” Fancy chairs of “Grape Leaf” pattern were among those imported from New York in 1810 by Nolen and Gridley of Boston. Chairs of grape pattern were particularly important to David Alling whose shop in Newark, New Jersey, was just across the bay from New York. The chairmaker noted two types of grape decoration in his accounts—one painted “Natural Color,” the other “Bronzed,” or stenciled. All the chairs had slat backs (see fig. 89).
Grapes with leaves, vines, and tendrils are the subject of three ornaments in the drawing book (figs. 57–59). Figure 57, a running vine, is representative of the open pattern introduced first in the early nineteenth century. A simpler version appears on the crest tablets of a Massachusetts settee of this date (fig. 90). The more complex design of figure 58, which has the character of a composition, is one that became popular for chair crests, including the rocking chair, in the 1820s. By that date an oak-leaf and acorn pattern was fashionable for borders on tables. David Alling noted in 1815 that he had ornamented a set of bed cornices with “Oak Wreaths.” The central wreath in figure 61 relates to that description, although berries are substituted for acorns. A comparable vine flanking a wreath of a different pattern is illustrated on the tablet of the fancy chair in figure 93.
Pineapples are the subject of several craftsmen’s accounts (see fig. 60). As early as 1796, George Davidson of Boston painted a pineapple on a customer’s shop sign. John Doggett and David Alling of Boston and Newark, respectively, recorded their work in gilding three-dimensional pineapples, although the purpose of the ornaments is unknown. Alling also employed the pineapple in his fancy chair work. Part of a furniture consignment shipped to New Orleans in 1819 consisted of “one doz rose wood Couler [chairs] pine apple in back.” Occasionally, a pineapple is part of a larger composition of fruit that fills the slat or tablet of a chair back.
The selection of fruit in the tray and basket illustrated in figures 51 and 52 includes the peach, a fruit noted by David Alling in chair accounts dating to 1817: “Bronzing 12 Scroll Backs (Peaches).” Although Alling used stencils to produce his design, freehand brush strokes created the ornament in the cross slat of the New York chair illustrated in figure 91. The use of natural coloring enhances the ornament.
Ornamental painters and schoolgirl artists alike exhibited considerable interest in shell decoration. The best-known composition, a work of art in its own right, is one painted by John Ritto Penniman for the top of a satinwood and mahogany commode made in 1809 by Thomas Seymour for Elizabeth Derby (West), daughter of the Salem merchant Elias Hasket Derby. One of the prominent shells is a cowrie. By contrast, a border of shells edging the lid of a sewing box painted by schoolgirl Jane Otis Prior for a friend in 1822 is naively drawn but nevertheless captivating. The three naturalistically rendered shell ornaments in the drawing book fall closer in quality to the work of Jane Prior than to that of Penniman (figs. 62–64).
Shells appear to have been very popular when Penniman and the Nestell drawing master painted their ornaments. Cabinets and mantel shelves were common repositories, and ornamented furniture carried out the theme. By 1815 a chair decorator in Thomas Boynton’s shop at Windsor, Vermont, was “[Ornamenting] shells.” Boynton had relocated to Vermont from Boston in 1811–1812, thus he was familiar with developments in the coastal market. Before he left the city, Nolen and Gridley were importing chairs described as “White and gold double shells and green Tops.” The white and gold chair of New York origin shown in figure 92 has neatly executed double shells in the crest and on the seat casing and may well identify the imported pattern.
The basic function of the border is to enhance, supplement, contain, or enclose decorative material of greater prominence or significance to a design. Borders occur on fixed architectural elements and movables alike. The Greek key border of figure 66, with its many variants, probably appeared in the American furniture market about 1800 and likely in the form of japanned furniture imported from England. Within a decade the decorative element had been absorbed into the vocabulary of American furniture design, as suggested by the border pattern in the Nestell drawing book and confirmed by Nolen and Gridley of Boston, who in 1810 imported from New York chairs of coquelicot, or red poppy, color with “gold Grecian Border.”
The guilloche border of rounded loop, represented by figure 68, appears to have been a more frequent choice of cabinetmakers and chairmakers and predates popular use of the key border in England by at least several decades. The Finlay brothers of Baltimore offered furniture with “Scroll . . . Borders” by November 1805. A guilloche is a prominent feature in the front stretcher of figure 93, a chair from a set made by the Finlays in 1815 for the Hagerstown, Maryland, merchant Richard Ragan. The brothers were well aware of developments in the English furniture market even before Hugh made an extended trip abroad in 1810 to collect engravings and drawings of European designs.
The stars that fill the loops of the Nestell guilloche border (fig. 68) probably are conscious substitutions for the small florets often found in English ornament. Stars are part of the decoration of figure 87, a New York chair dating to the period of the Nestell drawing book. Benjamin Henry Latrobe used the star as a motif in furniture he designed in 1809 for the White House, although use of stars in American decorative painting dates even earlier. At Boston in 1794, a patron engaged George Davidson “to [paint] his Coatch with Silver stars.” The star-painted chair illustrated in figure 87 also exhibits another motif found in the drawing book—a heraldic wreath. The twisted band on the lowest cross rail of the chair back is merely a simplification of the ornament in figure 69.
Trophies abound in ornamental painting of the federal period, and nowhere were they more popular than in Baltimore. The Finlay brothers offered “Trophies of Music, War, Husbandry, Love, &c.,” to which can be added the hunt, based on its appearance on Baltimore furniture. The most common choice everywhere was the trophy of music, although from ornament to ornament considerable variation existed in composition and the selection of elements. The principal furniture forms decorated with trophies are tables, seating pieces, and looking glasses. A painted Connecticut card table with a floral swag on the top (fig. 86) has a trophy of music centered at the front of the skirt (fig. 94) that relates to the ornament in figure 71. Based on technological accomplishment and composition, the example in the drawing book is the more successful of the two.
Of greater prominence than a trophy of music on a Baltimore pier table is a second trophy representing the hunt, which occurs four times on the skirt (fig. 95). The ornament again bears a remarkable similarity to one in the Nestell drawing book (fig. 72), although the trophy on the table has been painted with greater skill and assurance, particularly the wreath. John Doggett of Roxbury, Massachusetts, noted a related use of elements common to the two trophies in his accounts for December 1808 when recording a job of “Gilding Bed cornise Bows Darts Quivar arrows &c.” for client Elizabeth Derby (West). The 67 1/2-inch cornice, which still exists, consists of a long bow, duplicating the shape of the one in the drawing book, crossed at the center by a square, tapered quiver and a torch. The latter element shifts the theme from that of the hunt to love.
The wreath of leaves in figures 72 and 73 is an infrequent element of the trophy. Its principal application as a furniture ornament is to frame a centered device, as illustrated in the crest of the chair shown in figure 93. The wreath as a frame was popular with ornamental painters in Baltimore. Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe centered a striped shield within a large wreath on the end faces of a Grecian-style sofa when designing the White House furniture in 1809. David Alling identified “Oak Wreaths” specifically in his 1815 accounts in connection with ornamenting a set of bed cornices at Newark.
The griffin was a popular motif among ornamental painters at Baltimore, more so than elsewhere in the American furniture market. The influence that led Nestell’s master to include a design with griffins in the drawing book (fig. 74) likely came from that city, a suggestion underscored by the selection of a Baltimore-style chair crest to illustrate the landscape scene in figure 17. Despite the fascination of Baltimore consumers with the griffin, local records are silent on the subject of these beasts. The well-traveled Robert Gilmor, Jr., wrote home to Baltimore in 1800, commenting on the lion’s heads and sphinxes he had seen on furnishings in Paris. During his travels in Europe in 1810, Hugh Finlay undoubtedly encountered the griffin, and the beast likely figured as an ornament in some of the furniture engravings and drawings he collected to bring home. The motif appears principally on seating furniture and tables. The tablet-type crest of a Baltimore fancy chair suggests something of the endless possibilities for varying the motif (fig. 96). The luxuriant scrollwork that is part of the chair design is only suggested in the central scrolls of figure 74.
The leaf-bound bundle of rods in figure 75, which suggests the fasces motif, had several applications as an ornament. A popular one was as a stenciled, handpainted, or printed-paper border for walls. One paper with a fasces-like continuous border is documented to a Boston manufactory and can be dated between 1811 and 1817. A hand-painted fasces border above a dado figures in the background of a self-portrait of an unidentified artist seated on a rush-bottomed fancy chair, paint brush in hand. As expected, Baltimore craftsmen occasionally chose the true fasces motif as a painted ornament for their classically inspired chairs, and the ornament even appears as a carved figure on the crests of mahogany chairs made in New York during the 1810s.
The two drawing book vignettes that illustrate mythological-type scenes probably were intended as subjects for reverse-painted glass plates, or tablets (figs. 76, 77). Glass tablets are found commonly in the waist and base sections of wall, or banjo, clocks and in the top panels of looking glasses. Occasionally glass tablets embellish high-style tables and case pieces. The heavy border that “panels” the image in figure 76 reinforces its presumed use as a tablet. The most common mythological motif in wall-clock tablets is the female figure riding through the clouds in a chariot drawn by a pair of horses or winged horses. Some figures are identified as Aurora, and the torch is a frequent attribute. Figures drawn across a body of water in shell-like chariots, as illustrated in figure 76, are uncommon, and the animals usually are horses instead of dolphins.
Unlike mythological subjects, patriotic symbols embellish many surfaces and objects—from interior walls to exterior signs, from household furniture and furnishings to firefighting and militia equipment. On May 3, 1796, George Davidson of Boston billed a Mr. Hayman, “Tavern Keeper” of Cambridge, for “Painting his Sine With flag.” A spread eagle was another popular subject, given the evidence of surviving signboards.
In 1810 the Boston firm of Nolen and Gridley itemized “Eagle Top” chairs in their long list of painted seating furniture imported from New York. Baltimore painters also chose the eagle as a motif for chair backs, as indicated by the chair illustrated in figure 93, one from a set made by the Finlay brothers in 1815. The same year, Thomas Boynton of Windsor, Vermont, employed John Patterson to ornament a large number of chairs. Boynton also credited the workman with “Lettering National Emblems” (see figs. 79, 81), although the nature of the job is unspecified. The account entry falls between listings for chairwork, suggesting that movables of some type were involved, perhaps militia equipment. A spread eagle on a nineteenth-century drum from Connecticut is painted with a banner bearing the national motto. Daniel Rea, Jr., of Boston recorded “Painting a Drum Shell Blue Ground & Spread Eagle” for a “Connecticut Man” in 1792.
Painted busts of national figures occasionally adorn chair backs and the surfaces of other movables. Tombs and urns were popular motifs, with Washington a prominent subject (see fig. 80). When Daniel Rea, Jr., painted “the burst figure of General Washington” for Boston carver and cabinetmaker John Skillin, he probably identified a figure in the round. Ezra Ames included “Cherubs” in his portfolio of figures while painting in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1791 (see figs. 80, 81).
References to painted imitations of natural materials in documents contemporary with or slightly earlier than the Nestell drawing book are ambiguous at best (see figs. 82, 83). The most common references are to mahogany, red cedar, and marble. The usual terminology includes the word “color” in relation to the named material, although pricing appears to support painting in a plain color rather than special manipulation of the surface. Thus, when Daniel Rea, Jr., of Boston painted a “short post Bedstead mehagony Colour” in 1791, he may simply have applied a coat of reddish brown paint. Rea was more specific about other tasks, such as painting a set of bed cornices “in Imitation of the Copperplate” or painting a room and entry floor cloth “in Straw Work & Borders.” Further confusing the picture is Hezekiah Reynolds’s Directions for House and Ship Painting (1812), which provides instructions for mixing oil colors for outside work. His recipe for “chocolate color” describes plain brown paint; the one for “mahogany color” outlines the entire graining process. The range of objects and surfaces painted “mahogany color” in this period, whatever the process, is broad. Outdoor work focused on window shutters and front doors. Furniture included bedsteads, bookcases, “buros,” chairs, cradles, desks, and tables.
References by painting specialists to “marble” or “marble color” are as uncertain as those for wood colors, with a few exceptions. On July 13, 1790, Daniel Rea, Jr., filled a custom order by painting a “Cooler in Imitation of marble.” Seven years later, Samuel Barrett, Esq., engaged the craftsman to paint a part of his parlor in “Mahogany & Marble work.” References to marble-colored furniture center on tables. A few entries describe combinations of materials, as for example one in the accounts of William Gray of Salem, Massachusetts, who in 1796 painted “a Table Mohog’y & Marble.” Hezekiah Reynolds provided directions for painting “marble color,” which again describe a graining process. The ground was white, and the shading, Prussian blue “in imitation of marble.”
The Christian Nestell drawing book probably is the most complete document of its type for the federal period. Although many questions remain unanswered about the actual creation of the book, the range of visual material contained within its covers documents popular interest in ornamented surfaces. As suggested, painters drew from a broad range of patterns in bright, vibrant colors.
The author acknowledges support for initial work on this project from a Winterthur Research Fellowship awarded by the Winterthur Museum, Library, and Garden, Winterthur, Delaware.
Detail of the front cover of the Christian M. Nestell Drawing Book, New York City, 1811–1812. Ink on paper boards with leather. 15 5/16" x 10". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum Library.)
Advertisement of Christian M. Nestell, Providence Patriot, Providence, Rhode Island, February 26, 1820. (Courtesy, University of Delaware Library.)
Detail of the Daniel Anthony map of Providence, Rhode Island, 1823. Engraving on paper. 23 1/2" x 33 5/8". (Courtesy, Rhode Island Historical Society Library.)
Photograph of Christian M. Nestell. Frontispiece of Nestell Lodge, No. 37, A.F. and A.M., Providence, Rhode Island, Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, 1880–1930 (Providence: By the lodge, 1930). (Courtesy, Rhode Island Historical Society Library.)
Page 54 (top) of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Page 5 (top) of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Detail from William Faden, A Map of the Inhabited Part of Canada, London, 1777. Engraving on paper. 23 5/8" x 34 7/16". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.)
Page 73 (top) of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Detail of plate 1 of the “Accompaniment” to Thomas Sheraton, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-Book, London, 1793. (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum Library.)
Page 23 of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Page 15 (top) of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Detail of plate 3 of the “Accompaniment” to Thomas Sheraton, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-Book, London, 1793. (Courtesy, Winterthur Library.)
Detail of plate 3 of the “Accompaniment” to Thomas Sheraton, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-Book, London, 1793. (Courtesy, Winterthur Library.)
Page 20 of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Page 49 (top) of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Page 42 of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Page 74 of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Page 14 of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Page 13 of the Nestell Drawing Book.
Detail of the right crest panel of a fancy settee, probably northeastern Massachusetts, 1810–1820. Maple, mulberry, ash, birch, and hickory. H. 34", W. 66 1/2" , D. 19". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.)
Fancy armchair, New York City, 1810–1820. Maple and yellow poplar. H. 35", W. 20", D. 16". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.)
Detail of the center panel on the skirt of the card table illustrated in fig. 86.
Archibald Robertson in New-York Evening Post, April 26, 1802, as quoted in Rita Susswein Gottesman, comp., The Arts and Crafts in New York, 1800–1804 (New York: New-York Historical Society, 1965), pp. 10–11, and New-York Evening Post, November 4, 1811.
Samuel J. Bower in Providence Gazette (Providence, R.I.), June 4, 1820; Samuel E. Brown in Providence Patriot (Providence, R.I.), May 30, 1821.
William W. Pitman in Rhode-Island American and General Advertiser, March 30, 1821; Henry Wilder Miller Account Book, 1827–1831, Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester, Mass.; John S. Barrow in Manufacturers’ and Farmers’ Journal, Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser (Providence, R.I.), February 28, 1820; Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers and Pictorial Needlework, 1650–1850, 2 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 1:75; George Davidson Waste Book, 1793–1799, Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Mass.; Samuel J. Bower in Providence Patriot, August 9, 1823.
Samuel J. Bower in Providence Directory (1830); Kinsley C. Gladding in Providence Patriot and Columbian Phenix, May 16, 1827; William M. Pitman in Providence Patriot, January 31, 1824, and Rhode-Island American and Providence Gazette (Providence), December 30, 1825.
Jane C. Nylander, “Some Print Sources of New England Schoolgirl Art,” and Betty Ring, “Mrs. Saunders’ and Miss Beach’s Academy, Dorchester,” Antiques 110, no. 2 (August 1976): 296, 301, 307.
For delineations of small boats, see W. H. Pyne, Picturesque Views of Rural Occupations in Early Nineteenth-Century England (1808; reprint 1824 ed., New York: Dover Publications, 1977), pl. 63; The Artist’s Vade Mecum, Being the Whole Art of Drawing (London: R. Sayer, 1762), pls. 87, 98. For European scenes with ruins, see Joshua Bryant, Progressive Lessons in Landscape (London: R. Ackermann, 1807), pls. 13, 16; Cox, Young Artist’s Companion, pl. 50; Orme, Rudiments of Landscape, n.p.
The Art of Drawing and Painting in Water-Colours (Dublin: J. Potts, 1778), p. 10.
Topsel, History of Four-Footed Beasts, p. 173; Roger L’Estrange, Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists with Morals and Reflections (3d ed.; London: R. Sare et al., 1669), fable 424.
Alan Feduccia, Catesby’s Birds of Colonial America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), pp. 64–67; Rita Susswein Gottesman, comp., The Arts and Crafts in New York, 1726–1776 (1938; reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1970), pp. 194, 254; Jane Carson, Colonial Virginians at Play, Williamsburg Research Series (Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1965), p. 101; Elisabeth Donaghy Garrett, At Home: The American Family, 1750–1870 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990), pp. 73, 92.
Roberts, Bird-Keeping, p. 33; Francis Barlow, Aesops Fables with His Life (London: By the author, 1687), pp. 95, 155; R. Dodsley, Select Fables of Esop and Other Fabulists (Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, 1811), fable 29; Juvenile Sketches of Natural History of Birds (New York: Samuel Wood and Son, 1817); A History of British Birds, 2 vols. (Newcastle, England: T. Bewick, 1805), 1:301–4; Joseph Kastner, The Bird Illustrated, 1550–1900 (New York: New York Public Library, 1988), p. 99; Montgomery, Printed Textiles, figs. 217–19, 221; Thomas Hope, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807; reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1971), pl. 6.
George Wither, A Collection of Emblems, Ancient and Moderne (London: John Grismond, 1635), p. 250; Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts (Lexington, Mass.: Museum of Our National Haritage, 1976), p. 48; A Specimen of Metal Ornaments Cast at the Letter Foundry of Binny and Ronaldson (Philadelphia: Fry and Kammerer, 1809), no. 67, as printed in facsimile in The Specimen Books of Binny and Ronaldson, 1809–1812 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1936); Specimen of Printing Types from the Boston Type and Stereotype Foundry (Boston: Samuel M. Dickinson, 1832), p. 102, no. 113, as printed in facsimile in Stephen O. Saxe, ed., Old-Time Advertising Cuts and Typography, (New York: Dover Publications, 1989); Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 2:437; A Complete Guide for the Management of Bees through the Year (Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah Thomas, 1792), facing title page; Thomas Mouffet, The Theater of Insects (London, 1658), front cover.
Bowles, Bowles’s Florist, p. 14, pl. 33; Botanical Magazine (1787), vol. 1, pl. 25; Edwards, Collection of Flowers, s.v. “Pinks Royal,” “Carnation,” “Indian Pinks.”
Art of Painting, p. 46; Botanical Magazine (1787), vol. 1, pl. 89; Chippendale, Director, pl. 195; Sheraton, Drawing-Book, “Accompaniment,” pl. 3; Smith, Designs for Household Furniture, pl. 26.
Heckle, The Florist, pl. 19; J. H. Wynne, Choice Emblems, Natural, Historical, Fabulous, Moral, Divine (London: G. Riley, 1777), pp. 33–34; William P. C. Barton, A Flora of North America (Philadelphia: Mathew Carey and Sons, 1821), pl. 26.
Young Artist’s Assistant, pl. 27; Young Ladies’ Drawing Book, pp. 11, 17; Art of Painting, pp. 23–24.
For the survey trophies, see Classical Ornament Designed by Pergolesi, pl. 16; Ackermann, Pattern Card, p. 4, no. 144; Unidentified cahier of ornament engraved by Berthault ([probably Paris], ca. 1730–1770), pp. 3, 4; Le Noir, Collection D’Arabesques, pl. 2; William Caslon, A Specimen of Cast Ornaments (London: C. Whittingham, 1795), nos. 72, 75; Robb, Specimens of Printing Types, metal ornaments, no. 53; Saxe, ed., Old-Time Advertising, metal ornaments, nos. 70, 399, 400; Trade catalogue of ornaments, p. 17.
Young Artist’s Assistant, pl. 31; Mr. Lens, A New and Compleat Drawing-Book (London: B. Dickinson, 1751), n.p.; Sheraton, Drawing-Book, “Accompaniment,” p. 13.
Jean Lipman, Rufus Porter Rediscovered: Artist, Inventor, Journalist, 1792–1884 (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1980), pl. 11; Jean Lipman, “Rufus Porter: Yankee Wall Painter,” Art in America 38, no. 3 (October 1950): fig. 24; Nina Fletcher Little, “Painted Scenes on Country Furnishings,” American Art Journal 9, no. 2 (November 1977): fig. 3. For the chair with hunter and horse, see Nancy Goyne Evans, American Windsor Furniture (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1997), fig. 1–44. For one chair from the suite of seating furniture, see Evans, American Windsor Chairs, fig. 3–159.
Davidson Waste Book; John Doggett Daybook, 1802–1809, DCM, work billed in July 1805; Alling Ledger, work billed in 1815; David Alling Invoice Book, 1819–1820, NJHS. For chair with pineapple in crest, see Dean A. Fales, Jr., American Painted Furniture, 1660–1880 (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972), p. 206.
L. D. Chapin in Providence Patriot and Columbian Phenix, July 13, 1825; Boynton Ledger; Nolen and Gridley in Columbian Centinel, December 12, 1810.
For use of the guilloche border in English furniture, see Maurice Tomlin, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982), pp. 11, 44, 66. Finlay brothers in Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser, November 8 1805, as quoted in Elder, Baltimore Painted Furniture, p. 11. For a discussion of the Finlays and their work, see Gregory R. Weidman, “The Painted Furniture of John and Hugh Finlay,” Antiques 143, no. 5 (May 1993): 745–48.
Rea Daybooks, 1789–1793 and 1772–1800; Gray Ledger; Reynolds, House and Ship Painting, p. 20.