This chest of drawers descended in the Blair family of Virginia and is attributable to the south side of the state or possibly the area of Milton, N.C. The chest was gifted to the Georgia Museum of Art from the Pierre Daura estate. Comprising walnut, poplar and yellow pine, the chest displays numerous aspects of fine craftsmanship and probably dates to around 1825–60. For its time and region, important stylistic features include ring-turned feet, cross-hatched inlay characteristic of furniture from the Roanoke River valley, large inlaid circles and ovals and, especially, carved masks placed in the upper stiles beneath the top. Referred to in the 19th century as “mummies,” the masks reference long-standing classical examples. Georgia Museum of Art's curator of decorative arts, Dale Couch, is exploring a possible attribution to or influences from African American cabinetmaker Thomas Day. Similar masks are found in his architectural woodwork from that region.
According to Couch, “The Blair-Daura chest is exciting for a number of reasons, but especially since aspects of its design, in particular its cross-hatched inlay, migrated with settlers from Georgia in the lower southern piedmont. Such pieces serve not only as remarkable specimens of American decorative art but also as important reference points for evaluating Georgia examples. The chest will provide numerous ongoing research projects for a long time to come. Thomas Mapp and Martha Daura’s names are well known to the museum community, and it is well known that she is the daughter of internationally important Catalan artist Pierre Daura. We forget that she is also a Virginian, and her family heirlooms have now become an important part of our decorative arts holdings.”