E-Museum of Pyrographic Art
Antique Art Hall
to the Salon of the
Royal Stuart Chest
described in the 1907 book
Furniture of the Olden Time
by Frances Clary Morse
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|Royal Stuart Chest with Burnt Work, Illustration 2, p.13|
Artist unknown, circa 1630–1650, provenance: the D'Olney Stuart Family
Described above from bottom of p. 11 to nearly all of p. 12
Excerpt (pp. 10–13) adapted from the book by Frances Clary Morse entitled Furniture of the Olden Time, Chapter I, "Chests, Chests of Drawers, and Dressing-Tables," 1907, pp. 10–39.
Because of the reference given by the book's author F. C. Morse, the search to locate the singular Stuart Chest began in Claremont-on-the-James in Virginia. The Stuart Chest, which was believed to date from between 1630 and 1650 and bore the family crest, was said to have traveled long ago to America with an ancestor of the royal Stuart Family who fled England for Virginia after King Charles the First was beheaded.
No doubt a unique piece, the Royal Stuart Chest—diligently described yet so inadequately illustrated in Furniture of the Olden Time—was not to be found at historic Claremont Manor, as hoped, and is unknown to Surry County's Historical Society there, where advice was offered to then try the two museums in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: The unlikely Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the quite promising DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, which offers an extensive collection of American and British antiques, including furniture from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.
After that failed attempt at the Surry County Historical Society and its follow-up in Williamsburg, which likewise ended in failure, the E-Museum's Research Department held out so little hope as to be on the verge of despair that this wonderful Stuart Chest with the less than wonderful illustration (in a book full of perfectly good illustrations of other pieces) could ever be found and properly photographed. It is heartbreaking to think that such a very rare, extremely old chest, elaborately adorned with decorative and pictorial pyrography as this one was, and that, in addition, is linked to the compelling history of the royal Stuart Family, could disappear without a trace as appears to be the case.
Had the chest remained in the D'Olney Stuart Family, this research may have had a happy ending. However, the last known owner of the chest, mentioned more than one hundred years ago in the Morse book (bottom of page 11 above), was Caroline Foote Marsh. Research revealed that, among her varied endeavors, she was an antiques dealer who spent a lot of time in New York. It is likely the Stuart Chest did not remain with her for long.
NEWSFLASH! May 2009: The E-Museum has discovered a second book entitled The Old Furniture Book with additional information and illustrations in excerpts exhibited at this link.
If you have any information to offer regarding the provenance or whereabouts of this extremely rare 17th C. Stuart Chest, please e-mail the E-Museum Curator.
You are leaving the Salon exhibit of
the 17th C. Royal Stuart Chest
Described in Frances Clary Morse's 1907 book
Furniture of the Olden Time
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© 2009 Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.
13 March 2009. Last updated 7 November 2009.