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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth, 36.006; photo by Erik Gould
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Desk and bookcase

Object number



Maker Job Townsend, Sr., 1699–1765


82 1/2 x 40 x 24 1/2 in. (209.55 x 101.6 x 62.23 cm)



Current location

Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design


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


Mahogany (primary); mahogany (horizontal blocks of feet and vertical blocks of rear feet); yellow poplar (sides and backs of drawers, supports for two middle drawers, and sides, fronts, and bottoms of secret drawers); pine (bottoms of drawers, backs of secret drawers, and vertical brace at back of desk interior); chestnut (top, bottom, and back boards of desk, bottom and top boards of bookcase, backs of drawer dividers, blocks on upper surface of desk top, board under desk interior, brackets of rear feet, supports for top and bottom drawers, and vertical blocks of front feet); cherry (backboards of bookcase)


"Made / by / Job Townsend / in Newport.," in ink, on a paper label glued inside prospect door


“1” and “2,” in graphite, on interior backs on proper-right shell drawer and proper-right middle drawer; “4,” in graphite, on interior back and bottom of drawer to proper-right of prospect; “5,” in graphite, on exterior back of drawer to proper-left of prospect. “6” through “8,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left interior drawers [from top to bottom]; “6,” in graphite, on exterior bottom of proper-left shell drawer; mathematical calculations, in chalk, on proper-left side of drawer marked “7”; “1” through “3,” in graphite, on interior backs of prospect drawers [from top to bottom]; “Dr [r in superscript] / LM,” in graphite, on underside of upper prospect drawer; “Top,” in graphite, on exterior top of removable prospect compartment; “2” and “3,” in graphite, on interior bottoms of two of proper-right valance drawers; “4” through “6,” in graphite, on interior bottoms of proper-left valance drawers; “3” and “4,” incised on top fronts of valance drawers marked “3” and “4”; the valance drawers marked “4” through “6,” have incised dots on the tops of their fronts corresponding to their numbers; the valance drawer marked “3” has a single dot incised on the top of its front; counting marks, in chalk, on exterior backboard of bookcase




James Davidson, New London, Connecticut, by 1919; sold to the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1936

Associated names

James Davidson


Malcolm A. Norton, "More Light on the Blockfront," Antiques 3, no. 2 (February 1923): 63–66, fig. 6.
Rhode Island Tercentenary Exhibition, exh. cat. (Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1936), 18, no. 12.
Joseph Downs, "The Furniture of Goddard and Townsend," Antiques 52, no. 6 (December 1947): 428, fig. 2.
"Some of Antiques Famous Firsts," Antiques 62, no. 6 (December 1952): 483, ill.
Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., "The Newport Exhibition," Antiques 64, no. 1 (July 1953): 43, fig. 21.
Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., The Arts and Crafts of Newport, Rhode Island, 1640–1820 (Newport, R.I.: Preservation Society of Newport County, 1954), 71–72, no. 44, ill.
Helen Comstock, American Furniture: Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Century Styles (New York: Viking Press, 1962), no. 201, ill.
Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury (New York: MacMillan Company, 1963), no. 693, 695, 716, ill.
Hedy B. Landman, "The Pendleton House at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design," Antiques 107, no. 5 (May 1975): 935, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 139, 248, 254, 273, figs. 3.64, 6.1, 7.1–7.1a.
Christopher P. Monkhouse and Thomas S. Michie, American Furniture in Pendleton House (Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1986), 94–96, no. 38, fig. 38a-d.
Jeanne Vibert Sloane, "John Cahoone and the Newport Furniture Industry," Old-Time New England 72 (1987): 103, fig. 4.
Margaretta M. Lovell, "Such Furniture as Will Be Most Profitable: The Business of Cabinetmaking in Eighteenth-Century Newport," Winterthur Portfolio 26, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 44, 45, 46, fig. 8, 9.
Luke Beckerdite, "The Early Furniture of Christopher and Job Townsend," American Furniture (2000): 20, fig. 35.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Silver, and Folk Art: Featuring English Pottery from the Collection of the Late Robert J. Kahn and the Lafayette-Washington Pistols, sale cat. (January 18–19, 2002), 223 (comp.cit.), fig. 4.
Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 248–250, fig. 101–102.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 37, fig. 23–24.
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), 202–204, 208, 452–53, no. 28, fig. 1–3.