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Red and white paint decorated dome-top pine storage box, compass artist

About the object

Schmuckkastchen, or small, decorative boxes, were traditional gifts in Germanic Europe and within the Pennsylvania German community and were used to hold small textile accessories, ribbons, trinkets, and personal keepsakes. A number of these boxes have survived, all similarly constructed of thinly milled pine, cedar, or poplar with fine, dovetailed corner joinery, pinned bottom and top boards, and punch-decorated sheet-tin hinges and lock hasps. They include dome-top, flat-top, and sliding-lid versions, as well as the coopered round or oval bandbox or bride's-box form. Several examples are lined with Lancaster County newspapers dating from 1812 to 1838. Others bear pencil or ink inscriptions indicating their initial owners, many of whom lived in the Lancaster area or in the adjacent Lebanon County region of the state. One such inscription, that of Heinrich Bucher of Lancaster County, was originally thought to identify the maker of these boxes, but it has since been proven that Bucher was an owner of such a box rather than the craftsman responsible for their manufacture or decoration. The decoration of these boxes is based upon closely related techniques and motifs, suggesting a common maker or group of related makers. The ground colors on known examples are applied directly to the bare wood surface rather than over a priming ground of paint or gesso, as is often found on Continental examples. These red, blue, or blue-green ground colors are then overlaid with patterns of stylized flowers, vines, and pinwheels, laid out with a compass and painted freehand. Several examples reveal stick combing in their patterns, a technique in which a dry point is rubbed through the wet overlaid paint line to expose the surface of a dry undercoat of contrasting paint color. Once complete, the painted decorated surface received a protective layer of overvarnish, which on many examples has darkened over time, muting the original vibrancy of the colors. The dotted motifs found on many of these boxes suggest a relationship to the patterns of wax resist, indigo-dyed textiles produced within the Pennsylvania German community during this period. In addition, the punch-decorated, sheet-tin hardware utilized on many surviving examples is similar to patterned punchwork employed by numerous traditional tinsmiths working contemporarily within the local community. -J.L.L.


No apparent inpainting under blacklight. In very good condition. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.


8 3/4 by 12 3/8 by 8 3/4 in.


American Radiance: Highlights of the Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, de Menil Gallery at Groton School, Groton, Massachusetts, October 15-December 15, 2002 "Folk Art Revealed," New York, American Folk Art Museum, November 16, 2004-August 23, 2009


American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, p. 172, fig. 138


Sotheby's New York, January 16-17, 1999, lot 442

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.