Friday, November 4, 2011

Meet The Maker!

Recently, Monica and I have been cataloging furniture over here in Collections Management. If you visited the museum this past season, you may have seen the exhibit entitled Something Old, Something New: Continuity and Change in American Fine Furnishings from 1700-1820. This exhibit displayed a wonderful selection of some of our finest high-style furniture pieces. However, we've got a lot of great furniture in our collection that isn't part of this particular exhibit--much of it is also on view in our historic houses!

As I was working on the table collection, I came across this lovely little piece:
Mahogany Table by Nathaniel Jillson (3.6-152), ca. 1840
This small table was made in the 1840s by Nathaniel Jillson. The wood is mahogany and the table is finished with veneer. It has a four-legged pedestal base and a shallow "apron" around the top. The maker, Mr. Jillson, lived and worked in Williamstown, Vermont. He was born in 1797 and died in 1878. Small tables like this one were of great use during the 19th century, especially ones that could be easily picked up and moved from room to room. Apparently they were called "tavern tables" in some regions.

I wondered about Mr. Jillson and his furniture business. As it turns out, I didn't have to look too far to learn a little bit more about him--here at the museum we also have his portrait!
Portrait of Nathaniel Jillson (27.1.1-222) by Keane West Davis
I happened upon Nathaniel himself as I worked with our paintings collection one morning. I was so excited to see the person who crafted one of our furniture pieces. This painting was made in 1844; Nathaniel was 47 years old at the time. Our records show that the census in the mid-19th century listed Mr. Jillson as a furniture and cabinet-maker in Williamstown. The portrait-painter, Keane West Davis, also lived in Williamstown and he also painted Mr. Jillson's second wife, Amanda: 
Portrait of Amanda Ervilla Bacon Jillson ( by Keane West Davis
According to the information we have about the Jillsons, Nathaniel also made the wooden frames for these two portraits. Seems like he was a man of many talents!

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