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"The Fox and the Grapes" Dressing Table

Artist/maker unknown, American

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America



Mahogany, tulip poplar, white cedar, yellow pine; brass

29 7/8 x 35 x 23 1/4 inches (75.9 x 88.9 x 59.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 202, American Art, second floor (Flammer Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by Leslie A. Miller and Richard B. Worley, Kathy and Ted Fernberger, The Ballinger Bequest, Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest,, Mrs. J. Maxwell Moran, Lyn M. Ross, The Carey Bequest, an anonymous donor, Sarah Miller Coulson, Donna C. and Morris W. Stroud II, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Vogel III, Dr. and Mrs. Robert E. Booth, Jr., Dr. Salvatore M. Valenti, Peggy Cooke, Hannah L. Henderson, George M. and Linda H. Kaufman, Lawrence H. and Julie C. Berger, Sis Grenald, Hollie and Jamie Holt, David and Margaret Langfitt, Richard Wood Snowden, and other generous individuals, the Lynford Starr Bequest for American Decorative Art, the Lea Fund, the E. Beatty Acquisition Fund, the Saul/O’Keefe Fund for American Furniture Acquisition, the Center for American Art Fund, and with funds from the proceeds of the sale of deaccessioned works of art, 2012

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For fashionable eighteenth-century Philadelphians, high chests and dressing tables represented the pinnacle of design, cabinetmaking, and carving in bedchamber furniture. This dressing table was conceived with a massive high chest of drawers (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1957-129-1). On its central drawer a composition borrowed from a 1761 publication by English carver Thomas Johnson depicts the moment of truth from Aesop’s well-known fable “The Fox and the Grapes”: a proud and skillful fox who cannot reach a bunch of succulent grapes decries them as sour and not desirable after all. The tale warns against the ills of greed and vanity, an ironic scene on this bold emblem of opulence.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.