Rare and Important Johannes Spitler Painted Shenandoah Valley Blanket Chest

American (Shenandoah Valley, Virginia), ca 1790-1800. A paint decorated blanket chest in yellow pine, having a rectangular lift top surface with applied molded edge and wrought iron hinges, open interior with left lidded till, the overall salmon-colored ground with blue and white painted decoration, case of dovetail construction, the paint decorated case consisting of central panel flanked by symmetrical pinwheel design with feather painted sides, all rising on applied bracket base (replaced); ht. 24, wd. 50.25, dp. 21.25 in. 

This chest is typical of Spitler's exuberant painting. According to Spitler researcher Betsy Davison, the construction techniques exhibited in this chest fit comfortably into a known group of similar Shenandoah Valley chests, making it clear that Spitler did not paint the chest in Ohio after his move to that state in 1807 (Davison, Personal Communication, December 22, 2018).  

AUCTIONEER'S NOTE: Recent historical and genealogical research conducted by A. Nicholas Powers, Curator of Collections of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley strongly suggests this chest descended in the family of David Strickler (1771-1815) or his wife Elizabeth Grove (1769-1845) whose daughter Elizabeth, along with her husband Samuel Neff moved to Champaign County, Ohio about 1830.  The Strickler's were early settlers of Massanutten, Virginia and would have been neighbors of Johannes Spitler.  This information provides compelling evidence that the chest, moved to Ohio with John and Elizabeth Neff, where it has remained for the last 188 years.  The original provenance information provided by the consignor suggested the chest was acquired at  a 1974 auction of "John Whitmore."  In reality, the auction was most likely the estate of Simon Joseph ("Joe") Whitemore (1899-1973) of Champaign County, and a direct descendant of the Stricklers.   

Provenance:This chest was purchased on July 20, 1974 at the estate auction of the John Whitmore family of Champaign County, Ohio. The Whitmore family home was located midway between the town of St. Paris and Urbana. (SEE CORRECTED GENEAOLOGICAL HISTORY ABOVE)


Paint loss and fading throughout, with age and use. Base replaced upon a similar example in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg. Paint loss nearly complete on the lid: no traces of paint appear, even in recessed surfaces.  While unlikely, it is possible that the lid was never painted.

Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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