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Exhibit draws furniture experts.

Byline: Bradford L. Miner

STURBRIDGE -- If Nathan Lombard's ghost were to have visited Old Sturbridge Village Saturday, he might have been humbled at the opening of the "Delightfully Designed: The Furniture and Life of Nathan Lombard'' exhibit featuring his work.

He might have been puzzled, as well.

On the gallery wall, in his own handwriting, the cabinetmaker's larger-than-life signature had been reproduced from a coffin receipt.

"Nathan Lumbard.''

Christie Jackson, curator of decorative arts, said she's had to prep the interpretive staff who would likely be asked about the spellings.

"In fact, Nathan often spelled his name with a 'u,' but subsequent generations of the family move away from that spelling,'' using the more common spelling of Lombard, she said. Today, all practical reference to Lombard, from auction catalogues to academic writings, uses the spelling adopted by later generations of the family.

The opening of the exhibit, which runs through the first week in May, coincided with the collectors' forum -- some 150 visitors -- many of whom are members of the Decorative Arts Trust. The Philadelphia-based nonprofit is a national organization dedicated to the study and preservation of decorative arts.

Ed Hood, vice president of Old Sturbridge Village, said the exhibit, two years in the making, represents museum-owned and borrowed pieces of furniture crafted by Lombard and those who worked with him.

A late edition to the exhibit, a tall case clock built by Lombard, was added within the last month, as word of the undertaking spread.

Ms. Jackson said her understanding of Lombard as a person, not just a cabinetmaker, took shape as she scoured attics and archives looking for clues about the family of eight.

She said Lombard's story cannot be told without including his wife, Delight Allen, and members of the extended family for whom Lombard built furniture on commission.

"It's those same family ties today that lend provenance to his work, along with his exceptional use of inlay featuring a floral motif, eagle and crest,'' she said.

In opening remarks to the collectors' forum, Brock Jobe, professor of American Decorative Arts at Winterthur Museum, cited Charles F. Montgomery's book "American Furniture: The Federal Period.''

The book's dust jacket features a photo of the Lombard desk and bookcase. When the book was first published in 1966, Montgomery attributed the work to a then-unknown cabinetmaker, likely from Hartford or Providence.

Ms. Jackson said one of the ironies of Lombard's legacy is that such an unassuming and ordinary man could produce furniture of such exceptional artistry and craftsmanship.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Miner, Bradford L.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 20, 2013
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