9187 A PAIR OF HIGHLY UNUSUAL MAHOGANY KNIFE ORBS OF GLOBULAR FORM IN THE MANNER OF DAVID SACKRITER Probably Philadelphia. Circa 1820. Measurements: Height: 27″ (68.5 cm) Diameter: 15 3/4″ (40 cm)
Of mahogany. Each surmounted by a restored oval finial with reeded sides, raised on a molded socle above the upper reeded section terminating in a square border with circular re-entrant corners, the upper section lifting off to reveal circular steps pierced for various utensils, each lower section plain with four fluted brackets, the whole raised on a molded socle set on a square base with circular re-entrant corners. Formerly with feet that were thought not to have been original.
A Baltimore collection
This remarkable pair of knife boxes belong to a tradition of decorative cutlery cases made in the late Federal period. Before silver drawers were incorporated into sideboards, knife boxes were meant to sit atop staple dining room furniture singularly or in pairs. These cases were chiefly made of mahogany, which became the favorite primary wood used in furniture after its introduction in the colonies.
This uniquely designed pair of boxes, of grand proportion, is reminiscent of a globe suspended within a frame, or perhaps inspired by a beehive. The top and bottom sections are delineated by a square border with ovolo corners, mirrored in the shape of the base. Each removable top conceals a stepped and pierced interior for various utensils, covered with a green velvet or baize.
American-made knife boxes are extremely rare, and seldom survive in pairs. Although no overtly similar pieces have been located, a similar classical style of case is found in a mahogany knife box with reeded cylindrical body in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (figure 1). One of a pair, its underside bears the signature ‘David Sackriter / Jan. 12, 1814.’ Sackriter was a member of the Society of Journeyman Cabinetmakers, and appeared in Philadelphia business directories as a cabinetmaker at various locations between 1807 and 1845, however not much else is known.
Further examples of the Sackriter model include a signed and dated (1814) pair in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art and an unsigned pair from the Bill Blass Collection, sold at Sotheby’s October 21-23, 2003 (Lot 343).
Like the present pair, the Sackriter models are made of mahogany and pine, and have stepped pierced interiors beneath a removable lift-off (as opposed to hinged) lid. They are also of comparable dimensions, all around 27 inches in height. It is clear that the present knife orbs are from the same circle of cabinetmaking and possibly by Sackriter himself.
1. Pratt, Harriet. “Knife Orbs.” Letter to Carlton Hobbs. 30 Oct. 2002.