There is not yet an absolute way of identifying a piece of Thomas Day furniture short of having the bill of sale with Thomas Day’s name on it. There is one instance we are aware of where the initials TD appeared on the back of a large sideboard he made but that is rare. He incorporated many of the fashionable styles and designs of the day in the furniture he produced, yet often put these elements together in a unique, “improvisational” way. If you believe you may have a piece of Thomas Day furniture, here are some things to look for:
Curves and Scrolls
Day and many other period artisans featured curves and S-shapes as both decorative and functional elements. These kinds of curvilinear designs can be found in a pattern book called, The Cabinet Maker’s Assistant ( Baltimore: John Murphy, 1840) which is one Day used as a reference. He often uses S-shapes in unique ways as in the supports for this mirror.
Expert Veneer Work
Day used imported mahogany veneers extensively which he applied to less expensive woods like pine and poplar. His veneers were cut unusually thin for the times (sometimes as thin as 1/16th of an inch). They are also distinctive in the way he expertly matched the wood grain as shown here where the two pieces of veneer come together beneath the key holes of each drawer.
Newell Posts & Distinctive Interior Architecture
Day is especially known for his sculptural newel posts and other distinctive interior architecture. Some people have seen a parallel between some of these forms and the stylized abstract forms of African sculpture. Art historians advising the TDEP, however, are reluctant to attribute the aesthetic preferences in Day’s work to an African aesthetic. They argue that much more research on Day’s body of work would need to be done before it could be called “African” or for that matter “European.” What we do know is that it is “American,” which means that it is a mix of diverse cultural and aesthetic influences.