New England, ca. 1820-1840. Maple or sycamore and white pine with original rich polychrome paint decoration and thin over-varnish. Its precise swallow-tail fingers and overall fine quality construction make it comparable to examples made by the Shakers. If Shaker made, it would have been sold unpainted then decorated in the "outside world" by a non-Shaker. The painted decoration is superbly rendered by a highly accomplished ornamental painter with a mastery of both brush and design. The decoration is related to those seen on select paint decorated tinware and chair-rails of the period. Small boxes like these with elaborate decoration were likely "not purposeful", i.e., not for pantry use, rather gifted as an expression of affection. If used at all it was likely for jewelry or other small valuables. This rare and beautiful box survives in a remarkable state of preservation with an untouched surface. Amongst the finest paint decorated bentwood boxes known. Diameter about 4 3/8 inches x 2 tall. See American Fancy, Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840, Sumpter Priddy, for reference.
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