Thistlethwaite Americana | Inlaid Sideboard from Baltimore
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Inlaid Sideboard from Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland
Circa 1795
Mahogany, poplar, light and dark wood inlay
H: 40”; W: 70”; D: 28”

A classic serpentine sideboard from a Baltimore workshop, possibly William Patterson (1774-1816). This sideboard has extremely elegant shaping, especially the blocked stiles that continue to form the shape of the top, and is beautifully proportioned overall with a fine taper to the legs. The board is a desirable size and width, especially given the massive breadth of many Baltimore sideboards. The inlays are a tour-de-force with a robust flavor that stand out from the delicate and tightly controlled Baltimore neoclassical norm. Considered the finest of the Baltimore neoclassical group are the serpentine pieces with the drawers veneered with crotch mahogany outlined in stringing, as seen here.

This sideboard was made during the heyday of the neoclassical style in Baltimore dominated by the shop of Richard Lawson and John Bankson for about a decade (1784-1792 and Bankson and Wilkinson 1792-1799). They operated the largest and most successful furniture-making concern in Baltimore and excelled in British inspired neoclassical furniture. Bankson and Lawson’s shop practice involved making inlays for specific locations on specific pieces. These inlays were designed to wrap around and accentuate the architectural elements of an individual piece of furniture. William Patterson was an apprentice at the Bankston and Lawson shop until the partnership dissolved, when he soon commenced “the manufacture of stringing, banding and shells of every description.” He also informed “country cabinet makers that he means to keep a general assortment of inlaying.”

The amount of furniture produced in Baltimore during the neoclassical period gave birth to practice of specialized inlay shops and the handful of Baltimore practitioners appear to have been a close-knit group. Thomas Barrett arrived in Baltimore in 1795 from Massachusetts and set up shop in cabinetmaking and inlaying. Upon his death in 1803, his son, John was bound to Francis Garish, to learn the trade of ebonist and cabinetmaker. Garish had a long career in Baltimore, advertising as an ebonist from 1796 to 1817. At Thomas Barrett’s estate sale we find William Patterson buying 238 “shells” made for inlaying furniture.

The inlay designs that adorn the surface of this sideboard share similarities with a tall case clock that bears William Patterson’s label dated 1797 (See Priddy, Flanigan and Weidman, The Genesis of Neoclassical Style in Baltimore Furniture, American Furniture, 2000 for a full discussion, particularly figs. 36-39). The shell inlaid on the plinth in the clock has the same distinctive irregular outlines as the foliage decorating this sideboard. The construction and shaping of the foliage of all the inlays on the sideboard are similar to those on pieces made in the Bankson and Lawson shop during William Patterson’s tenure there.

This sideboard has a MESDA label on the back with the number S-9365.