Kaufman Collection Preview

I’m stopping for a few days in Washington DC on my way to the 2014 Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum. Incidentally, I’ll be returning here for an overnight trip connected to the conference later this week, but right now I’m taking the opportunity to visit a friend in the District before I head down to Virginia. While she was at work today, I made my way to the National Gallery of Art to visit “Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700-1830,” which opened in October 2012. The Kaufmans have promised their exquisite collection to the National Gallery, and this exhibit gives us a sneak peek at some choice selections from the collection.

Since the exhibit is on the itinerary for the Williamsburg conference field trip as well, I will make a more comprehensive report later in the week. Tonight I just wanted to share a couple of highlights with you from today’s visit.

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 This clothes press (Charleston, 1785-1800) was one of my favorite pieces in the exhibit. It’s a form I’m not super familiar with, but the clothes press struck me as particularly elegant and wonderful.  Standing back to view the piece as a whole, I thought it had a stately elegance (this thing was massive) and a beautiful simplicity. On closer examination, however, I discovered several wonderful little “hidden” surprises. “Hidden” because they are small, delicate, and done in a light wood inlay that does not contrast boldly enough with the mahogany body to be immediately discernible from a distance. This subtlety on the part of the cabinetmaker thus creates two levels of appreciation for the piece. I thought it was marvelous.

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I also fell for this tambour desk (1790-1796) made by John and Thomas Seymour of Boston. Also a bit outside the realm of what I usually gravitate towards, the desk drew me in with the striking alternating dark mahogany and light (satinwood or curly maple?) tambours. What a beautiful and tastefully decorative effect it creates!

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Stay tuned for more Kaufman furniture when I return with the Williamsburg forum group!

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