HK Blanket Chest

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HK Blanket Chest

William and Mary joined oak and pine blanket chest.
Northampton, Massachusetts, 1675 – 1700.

First known as Pilgrim Century, then as William and Mary, the style defining this first period of antiques is now recognized as an extension of Mannerism. Mannerism traces its roots back to about 1520 in Rome and can be seen as a reaction to the High Renaissance. The designs used by the Mannerists split with the balance and symmetry of the Renaissance and featured activated surfaces that emphasized abstract decoration over the classically inspired naturalism of the earlier period. This style spread from Rome across Italy and eventually flourished throughout Europe and into the British Isles, as well as the American Colonies. It is evident in abstract form in this chest.

This fine joined blanket chest features molded decoration and the initials of the owner “HK.” The chest was made for Haines Kingsley (1662-1689) of Northampton, Massachusetts, between 1680 and 1689, and descended directly in family. Recent research suggests that it was made by Haines Kingsley’s kinsman, Enos Kingsley (1640-1708). Enos was the son of the family patriarch, John Kingsley (1614-1678) who was a wood worker who followed John Oldham to settle Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1635. John Kingsley’s activities as a skilled craftsman are well documented throughout the early Wethersfield records. John eventually moved his family to Northampton and was living there by 1653. Enos Kingsley accompanied his father to Northampton as a youth and eventually became a respected wood worker in the community. He was hired by the town to construct the Northampton grist mill and a cart bridge over the Mill River. The chest shows the Mannerist style of geometric form decoration as interpreted in the Connecticut River Valley. Through the creative use of multiple planes, Enos formed wide plane carved moldings that activate the chest into intricate bands of three-dimensional decoration. The moldings run horizontally across the front and vertically on the sides of the chest. The front edges of the chest also feature chip-carved notched corners as well as partial plane molding along the top and bottom edges. This adaptation of Mannerist design shows the affection for complex compositions of stylized patterns.

Upon close examination of the plane molded decoration the plane chatter can still be seen and shows the exact technique of using one plane on top of the other to create the detailed molded decoration. At least three different planes were used in succession leaving a deep central gouge flanked by a series of ogee and cove moldings. The result is a Mannerist masterpiece showing an activated surface with subtle variations that change with
differing light.

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