Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary .....

Highboy


Trumpet-leg highboy - Fairmount Park Woodford House, Philadelphia

Highboys, chest-on-chests, and tall chests of drawers are among the most spectacular and interesting types of American furniture. Size alone draws attention to these pieces. They are often more than 7' tall, and have upper drawers that can often be reached only by standing on a stool or a chair.

Highboys first appeared in England. When they were transported to America, they became immensely popular. In the hands of American cabinetmakers, they were transformed: with their fine cabinetwork and lavish carving, highboys are perhaps the pinnacle of American furniture design.

A highboy, always made in 2 pieces, consists of a base that resembles a lowboy and an upper chest of drawers.

Highboys and lowboys were seldom made after about 1775 and their place was mainly taken by the low chests of drawers, or bureaus, and by dressing tables respectively.


William and Mary style
The first American examples, in the William and Mary style, have a flat, overhanging top; the upper section rests on a lower section that consists of 1 to 3 drawers over an elaborately scrolled skirt.

Most have 5 to 6 legs, which are either trumpet- or scroll-shaped and are joined by flat, scrolled box stretchers.


Queen Anne style
Queen Anne highboys may be flat-topped or crowned by a high bonnet top, often ornamented with carved finials; they are mounted on elegant cabriole legs that terminate in pad or Dutch feet.

They have shaped skirts, often with turned drops.


Chippendale style
During the Chippendale period, the American highboy reached its most elaborate and exuberant stage. Although some have flat, overhanging tops, the finest examples have massive bonnet tops. Carving, which had usually been confined to a limited area on Queen Anne examples, became extensive and complex.

Bonnet tops incorporate elegant flame- or urn-shaped finials; corners are fluted or reeded; and cabriole legs have carved knees and bold claw-and-ball feet.



Photos and their arrangement © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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