Further examination of this chest of drawers has identified it as a reworking of old wood augmented by new materials―in other words, a deliberate fake. The top is fabricated from assembled drawer fronts or table leaves, and the sides are made from reused drawer fronts. Normally, if a chest of drawers is decorated with shells, it has three, all on the top drawer; the other drawers would only have blocking, forming a visual column below the shell motifs. Today we benefit from nearly a century of looking and learning―information not available to early collectors. 


Chest of drawers
Probably made in Connecticut; 1890-1920
Cherry, white pine
Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1957.507



This is the photograph that was given to Henry Francis du Pont in 1929. If you compare it to the chest, you can see that du Pont replaced the wooden knobs on the drawers and added a scrolled skirt, which makes the chest conform more closely to genuine examples made in New London County, Connecticut.


Photograph sent to Henry Francis du Pont; 1929
Winterthur Museum



Although discrepancies in the method of construction of this fake should be obvious from careful visual examination, the inside of the chest clearly shows that it does not conform to 18th-century practices. The sides are made from reused drawer fronts, which can be seen more clearly in this photograph. The drawer glides have been attached to the sides with modern, countersunk screws.


Details of construction
Winterthur Museum, photo by Herb Crossan



Kaye, Myrna. Fake, Fraud, or Genuine?: Identifying Authentic American Antique Furniture. Boston: Little, Brown, 1987. Winterthur’s nine-shell chest is discussed on pp. 110−12.