“The Compass Decorator,” Paint-decorated storage box, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, circa 1800-1840


Poplar, tinned iron hasp and hinges, original painted decoration, 8 ¼ x 11 x 11 inches

The unidentified artist-decorator of this box has come to be known as “The Compass Decorator,” because the designs of pinwheels and floral devices were laid out with the use of a compass. His body of work constitutes large and small size dome-top boxes with distinctive hand fashioned tin hasps with punched decoration, an occasional slid-lid box, and three dowers chests with turned feet. For related dome-top boxes by the Compass Decorator see Kenneth L. Ames, Beyond Necessity, Art in the Folk Art Tradition (Winterthur, 1977), p. 62; Beatrice B. Garvan, The Pennsylvania-German Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, 1982), fig. 21, p. 15; David A. Schorsch, “Living with antiques, A Collection of American Folk Art in the Midwest,” The Magazine Antiques, October, 1990, Pl. IX; Christie’s, “The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Scott, Jr., Lancaster, Pa,” June 10-11, 1994, lot 542; Sotheby’s, “Important Americana, Furniture and Folk Art,” January 16-17, 1999, lot 441; Irwin Richman, Pennsylvania German Arts, More Than Hearts, Parrots and Tulips (Atglen, Pa, 2001), p. 54, and Stacy C. Hollander, Ed., American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum (New York, 2001), p. 172; Scott T. Swank, “The Art of Becoming Americans: Observations on Pennsylvania-German Folk Art,” in Jane Katcher, David A. Schorsch and Ruth Wolfe, Eds., Expressions of Innocence and Eloquence,  Selections form the Jane Katcher Collection of Americana (New Haven and London, 2006), pages 270-271, 285, 402; Wendy A. Cooper, Patricia Edmondson and Lisa Minardi, “The Compass Decorator of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,” in Luke Beckerdite, Ed., American Furniture 2009 (Chipstone Foundation, 2009), pp. 62-87; Wendy A. Cooper and Lisa Minardi, Paint, Pattern & People, Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania 1725-1850 (Winterthur, 2011), p. 87-89.



A distinguished private collection


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