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I feel this is the time to admit that really up to this point in looking at the different periods of style I haven’t really liked any of them.  There have been aspects of each style here or there that have been pleasing, but as soon as I find an aspect of a style I like I find out that people liked to paint rooms neon bright colors (classical revivals I’m looking at you.)  So now we are looking at the Federal period, dating from 1780 to 1830, and while I’m still not a fan of the architecture, the furniture is not bad.  In particular I am rather enamored of a chest of drawers in the NYSHA collection that was used in Otsego County.

Unsurprisingly the Federal style took place during the founding of the United States and while the new nation was working hard to create some sort of patriotic feeling amongst a disparate population, the furniture was replete with patriotic images such as eagles, wreaths, and George Washingtons.  This is understandable given that the new government was being modeled on the Roman Republic.  The Federal style is part of the Neo-Classical style motif meaning that in addition to all of the patriotic motifs the Federal style was much cleaner and simpler than the style that preceded it: Rococo, which was filled with lots of flourishes, flowers, and exaggeration.  

This chest of drawers embodies the Neo-Classical design it is use of ovals, clean lines, and few embellishments.  Looking at the chest of drawers, it is unassuming and would take a back seat in a room to the people who occupied it and the ideas that they were espousing.  If the Federal period was about the creation of a new country perhaps the furniture was fashioned to be a blank slate for the new ideas and philosophies of the new country. 

Chest of Drawers, 1800-120, Wood (Cherry), Wood (Pine), Brass.  NYSHA, Cooperstown, NY, F0008.2001a-3.

Images from Fenimore Art Museum/New York State Historical Association and The Farmers’ Museum collection include fine art, folk art, photography, Native American art and farm related objects.  Images of objects in the collections are available for scholarly or commercial publication, personal reproduction or research.  Photographic images must be requested through the Rights and Reproductions Department.

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