Midwestern, ca 1870-1880. A fine Aesthetic Movement bedroom suite consisting of bed, armoire, dresser and washstand, in walnut and burled walnut veneers. Factory made and embellished with hand-carved features, probably made for a newly-wed couple. The crown on the bed, dresser and washstand is highly carved with a stylized row of fiddlehead ferns on the crest, flanked by pierced rinceau. The frieze is carved in compartments of realistic flowers, each different and each compartment separated by an angled wooden bands. The flowers are on either side of a bird's nest, carved with hovering birds. On the bed, two tiny eggs are visible within the nest, symbols of hopeful fecundity. Below the frieze is a central tablet, framed in a leaf-carved and stippled edge and flanked by an anchor (symbol of fidelity) on the right, and, on the left, a heart pierced by an arrow (signifying love struck).
Standing as brackets on the sides of the headboard are highly carved cranes, with arched necks, standing amid broad leaves and nettles. The lower section of the headboard has carved, stylized leaves and tablets of overlapping diamonds, an adaptation of Japanese motifs that influenced the Aesthetic Movement.
The dowel joints on the drawers of the case pieces confirm that the case pieces are factory made. As discussed by Carron in Grand Rapids Furniture, joining machines were patented in the 1860s and Grand Rapids, Michigan, and firms were using them in making both inexpensive and expensive pieces. Two Grand Rapids firms, Berkey & Gay and Nelson Matter & Co., used dowel joints, as did others. Carron notes that Berkey & Gay used this joinery on drawers sides, front and back, on expensive and moderately-priced pieces, but in the 1870s, some expensive Berkey & Gay pieces were showing hand-cut dove tails with scribe lines.
The bed has no marks or labels; 96" high x 65" wide x 86.5" long. The armoire; 97.5" high x 60" x 25" deep. The dresser has a bowed marble top over a center drawer, the interior fitted with two lidded compartments; 97" high x 60" wide x 22.5" deep. The washstand with marble backsplash and top; 87" high x 41" wide x 22.25" deep.
Condition: Minor chips to veneer.
Armoire: Some water damage to side and back of case. Stile between doors is replaced.
Dresser: One bird is broken from nest.
Wash Stand: One carved bird broken from nest.