National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Pennsylvania German Chest Pennsylvania German Chest
Rendered by Betty Jean Davis (artist), 1935/1942
watercolor and graphite on paper
overall: 31.6 x 45.7 cm (12 7/16 x 18 in.) Original IAD Object: 26 1/2" high; 40" long; 22 1/2" deep
Index of American Design
1943.8.17161
Not on View
From the Tour: Pennsylvania German Folk Art from the Index of American Design
Object 14 of 23

Dower chests were a necessary item for every Pennsylvania German girl preparing for marriage. They were used to store the linens, needlework, and household accessories that she collected over the years. Like other large pieces of furniture, dower chests were made by the village carpenter or by the farmer himself, but they were painted by an itinerant decorator. Usually three to four feet long, they were placed in the bedroom or parlor. Dower chests were decorated with traditional symbols: flowers, birds, hearts, scrolls, and geometrical designs. This one, set on bracket feet, displays typically bold and elaborate decoration. The painted panels suggest an architectural arrangement, a common mode of decoration. Ornate columns and arches enframered and black flowers growing out of urns. The small central panel was reserved for the bride's name and the date, while the side panels extend the architectural motif.

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