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Photo: Courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum, Wis., M1985.33; photo by P. Richard Eells
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Slant-front desk


Object number

RIF515

Maker

Maker Job Townsend, Jr., 1726 - 1778

Dimensions

103.823 x 98.108 x 54.61cm (40 7/8 x 38 5/8 x 21 1/2 in.)

Date

1750–1765

Current location

Milwaukee Art Museum

Geography

Made in Newport, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)

Medium

Hard maple (case top and sides, lid, lopers, writing board, exterior drawer fronts and dividers, bottom rail, base molding, and feet); mahogany (interior drawer fronts, prospect door, partitions and divider, front edge of desk shelf, and linings of valance drawers); eastern white pine (batten nailed to back and all support blocks for feet except vertical blocks for front feet, case bottom, support blocks behind bottom rail, vertical blocks for front feet, drawer supports for bottom drawer, drawer bottoms for all interior drawers, and drawers sides, bottoms, and backs for all exterior drawers); yellow pine (case back and secondary wood of desk shelf); yellow poplar (drawer sides, backs and stops for lower two drawers behind prospect door and two blocked drawers in desk interior, drawer support for upper three exterior drawers, and rear elements for rear feet); chestnut (batten nailed to vertical blocks for front feet and vertical brace at case back)

Marks

"Job Townsend," in graphite, on interior bottom of top exterior drawer

Inscriptions

“September 6th 1916,” in graphite, on interior bottom of upper exterior drawer; illegible inscription beginning with "H.," in graphite, on interior bottom of upper exterior drawer; “Returned from F. Freeman / September 6th 1916,” in graphite, on interior bottom of second exterior drawer from top; “B,” in chalk, on interior back of second exterior drawer from top; the history of the desk is written in ink on a label affixed to the exterior back of the second exterior drawer from the top, “C,” in chalk, on interior back and sides [at front corners] of third exterior drawer from top; “D[?],” in chalk, on interior back of lower exterior drawer; "Desk made by Job Townsend / signed in top drawer. / This desk purchased 1964, John Walton & Son / N.Y. city / by March C. Hoard," written in green pen, on interior bottom of lower exterior drawer; “Jam[es?],” in chalk, on interior backboard of case; “X,” incised on interior bottom board at front of case; “1” and “C,” in graphite, on interior back and sides [at front corners] of upper prospect drawer; “2” and “C,” in graphite, on interior back and sides [at front corners] of middle prospect drawer; “3, in graphite, on interior back and sides; “C,” on interior fronts of prospect drawers; “1,” in graphite, on interior back and sides [at front corners] of proper-right valance drawer; letter [?], in graphite, on exterior bottom of proper-right valance drawer; “2,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left valance drawer; “1” through “4,” in graphite, on interior back and sides [at front corners] of lower interior drawers [from proper-right to proper-left]

Provenance

John S. Walton, Inc., New York, 1961; sold to Mrs. William D. Hoard, Jr., Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, in 1963; given to Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, 1985

Associated names

John Warren
Mrs. William D. Hoard, Jr.
John S. Walton, Inc.

Construction

The rectangular single-board top is half-blind dovetailed to the single-board case sides, with a half-pin in front and a half-pin with rabbet at the back. The proper right dovetail joint contains three wood pins – one each in the front two tails, and one in the back tail. The hinged lid consists of three pieces – one large horizontal board tenoned to two flanking vertical boards, the whole with a thumb-molded edge. The joints between the boards are visible at the bottom of the lid when it is closed. It opens to an interior centering a shell-carved prospect door flanked by beaded stiles. The shell is contained with a semi-circular concave-blocked field. The door conceals three graduated concave-blocked small drawers and is flanked by banks of three valanced open compartments with scrolling uprights over convex-blocked drawers, flanked in turn by straight uprights and single compartments, with valanced, beaded and quarter-spherically concave-blocked small drawers above and concave-blocked small drawers below. The interior rests upon a straight, molded base. The small drawers? kerf-marked fronts meet their slightly shorter, round-topped, scribe-lined drawer sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The pins in the dovetail joints of the convex-blocked small drawers are markedly different – shorter, less finely cut, with thicker necks. The valanced drawer fronts meet their sides in a joint with a single tail. Across the front of the inside of the drawer front is a triangular wedge. The small-drawer bottoms, perpendicular to the fronts, are glued into rabbets in the elements above. The case back consists of three horizontal, half-lapped boards, fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the top and sides, and directly to the back of the two-board case bottom, which is dovetailed to the case sides. There is a single rosehead nail near the center of the front of the case bottom. Within the case, the top rail and drawer dividers meet the sides in half-blind dovetail joints. The vertical uprights beside the half-height thumb-molded lopers, and the bottom rail are set into grooves. Behind the bottom rail are three horizontal rectangular glue blocks. Aligning with the drawer dividers are nearly full-depth drawer supports, some fixed to the case sides with rosehead, some with later nails. The top drawer supports are slightly cut out at the back. The bottom board of the desk interior is visible within the case, supported at either end by strips of wood, aligning with the board which comprises the writing surface above, fixed to the sides with rosehead nails. At the midpoint of the backboards is a vertical batten revealed through the case bottom and fixed from the outside of the case-back with rosehead nails and from the inside with brads. The case drawer-fronts are lipped, graduated, thumb-molded and kerf-marked, meeting their slightly shorter, round-topped sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins and grooves below. The multi-board drawer bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are chamfered at the front, where they fit into grooves, and at the sides, where they are full-width and held in place by runners nailed with brads. The bottoms are nailed to the drawer backs (the back of whose tops are chamfered) with brads. The underside of a single-piece base molding fixed to the case with wood-filled fasteners, is flush with the case bottom. The feet consist of vertical blocks attached directly to the case bottom and flanked by horizontal chamfered glue blocks, the whole face with ogee brackets. The rear feet are configured similarly, except for the back brackets, which are straight, with a curving outline. The backward-facing edge of the rear feet?s side bracket is ogee in profile. On the proper left edge of the rear foot?s back bracket is a shaped block nailed with a brad; on the proper right is the shadow of a similar block. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, May 16, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

See also


Bibliography

"John S. Walton Antiques, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 80, no. 6 (December 1961): 502.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 141, 257, 273, fig. 3.68, 6.3, 7.2.
Brock Jobe et al., American Furniture with Related Decorative Arts, 1660–1830: The Milwaukee Art Museum and the Layton Art Collection, ed. Gerald W. R. Ward (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1991), 126–130, no. 46, ill.
Martha H. Willoughby, "The Accounts of Job Townsend, Jr.," American Furniture (1999): 114, fig. 7, 8.
John T. Kirk, American Furniture: Understanding Styles, Construction, and Quality (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2000), 108, fig. 119.
John T. Kirk, "Our Evolving Understanding of Untouched Furniture Surfaces," Antiques 158, no. 4 (October 2000): 539, fig. 3.
Patricia E. Kane et al., Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2016), 204, 204n8, 453, fig. 19.