What makes an English lowboy outstanding?
By Helen Meserve
Running Battle Antiques
The lowboy, or small side table, was one of the most popular forms of English furniture in the mid-18th century. Made of oak by rural carpenters or cabinetmakers, the country lowboy rivals a mahogany London-made one in style and charm. Of course its sisters, in America, made in walnut or cherry by famous cabinetmakers in Newport or Boston, can command staggering prices at auction, but for pure charm and adaptability, an English oak lowboy has no rival.
A lowboy will fit comfortably beside a fireplace or sofa as a side table, alongside a bed for holding a lamp and a few books, or in the corner of a bedroom as a small dressing table.
Here are three examples, showing “good, better and best,” based on color, patina and style.
GOOD: A nice example of a c. 1760 lowboy with a single plank top, center drawer and two deeper side drawers, and an apron with a scalloped pattern, standing on cabriole legs ending in paw feet. Notice added detail like the re-entrant corners on the plank top. Color is a medium brown, with a good pattern to the wood and nice warm patina. All in all a good example of the style.
BETTER: This mid-18th century lowboy has a two-plank top over a single narrow drawer with two small drawers below. The apron is a charming heart shape, with scallops leading to slender cabriole legs ending in small paw feet. More graceful and interesting than the first example, and of a superior dark reddish brown color, this one has a glowing patina. A finer example than the first.
BEST: Here we see a lovely example of a c. 1750 lowboy. The pale golden color means it has never had a varnish or color applied, which puts it into the top category straight off. It has a warm, natural color and rich patina. Furthermore, the plank top with its deep molding and curved, re-entrant corners, is superb. A single drawer over two smaller drawers is perfectly balanced by the C-scroll apron carved in the center. The slightly curved cabriole legs end in delicate paw feet. Overall, an outstanding example of a graceful oak lowboy.
Helen and Hamilton Meserve are the proprietors of Running Battle Antiques, Newagen, Maine. They sell seventeenth and eighteenth century English oak and country furniture at a dozen annual antique shows throughout the country. They travel all over England and Wales several times a year searching out the finest examples of dressers and other English furniture. Running Battle Antiques is a member of The Antiques Council and the Maine Antique Dealers Association.