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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The M. and M. Karolik Collection of Eighteenth-Century American Arts, 38. 41.579
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Bureau table


Object number

RIF675

Maker

Maker Edmund Townsend, 1736/7 - 1811

Dimensions

85.408 x 87.63 x 47.943 cm (33 5/8 x 34 1/2 x 18 7/8 in.)

Date

1765–1785

Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Geography

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

Medium

Cuban and San Domingo mahogany (primary); chestnut (drawer bottoms, case back, foot brackets, drawer divider backings, cupboard sides and back, cupboard drawer supports, sub-top battens, case bottom, and glue blocks); yellow poplar (drawer sides, drawer runners, drawer stops [replaced], kick bar [possibly replaced], and glue blocks); pine (cupboard top); red cedar (cupboard shelves and bottom)

Marks

"Made By / Edmund Townsend / In / Newport Rhode Island," written in ink on a paper label, on interior of long drawer

Inscriptions

"E. W. Cazeaux," in ink, on a label, on interior of long drawer; “1,” in graphite, on the interior of the proper-right front corner of long drawer (same mark may have also been on proper-left side); “X,” inscribed, on exterior bottom of long drawer; script letter, in graphite, on interior back of the long drawer; “4” [may not be 18th century], on exterior bottom of proper-right upper drawer; “1” [script], in graphite, on interior drawer back of proper-right upper drawer; “2,” in graphite, on the interior back and interior proper-left corner of the drawer side of proper-right middle drawer; “3 5” overlapping [possibly 18th century], in graphite, on exterior drawer bottom of proper-right middle drawer; “3,” in graphite, on the interior drawer back and interior front corners of drawer sides of proper-right lower drawer; “6,” in graphite [possibly 18th century], on drawer bottom of proper-right lower drawer; “4,” in graphite, on the interior drawer back and interior front drawer side corners of proper-left upper drawer; “N [1 or 4?],” on exterior drawer bottom of proper-left upper drawer; “5,” in graphite, on interior drawer back and on interior front drawer side corners of proper-left middle drawer; “N2” [scroll (in a different hand) and possibly another “2”], in graphite, on exterior drawer bottom of proper-left middle drawer; “6,” in graphite, on interior drawer back and interior front drawer side corners of proper-left lower drawer; “3,” in graphite, on exterior drawer bottom of proper-left lower drawer; “I,” incised, on drawer divider under long drawer; “1” and “4” [later], in graphite, on drawer divider under proper-left upper drawer; “II,” incised [on secondary wood], on drawer divider under proper-left upper drawer; “2” and “5” [later], in graphite, on drawer divider under proper-left middle drawer; “III,” incised, on secondary wood of drawer divider under proper-left middle drawer; “IIII,” incised, on secondary wood of drawer divider under proper-left middle drawer; “IIII,” incised, on secondary wood of drawer divider under proper-left lower drawer; “N” and “4” [later], in graphite, on drawer divider under proper-right upper drawer; “I,” incised, on mahogany of drawer divider under proper-right upper drawer; “3,” in graphite, on drawer divider under proper-right middle drawer; “II,” incised, on mahogany of drawer divider under proper-right middle drawer; “III,” incised [on mahogany], on mahogany of drawer divider under proper-right lower drawer; “X,” incised, on the exterior case back; “T”?, in graphite, on front, upper proper-left corner interior case; [illegible], in graphite, on front, upper proper-right corner of interior case; old MFA, Boston label, on sticker with red border, on exterior case back

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

E. W. Cazeaux. Martha Codman Karolik (1858–1948) and Maxim Karolik (1893–1963), Boston, Massachusetts, and Newport, Rhode Island, before 1939; given to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1939

Associated names

E. W. Cazeaux
Martha Codman Karolik
Maxim Karolik

Construction

The oblong, single-board top is molded at its sides and front, where it is supported by a one-piece beaded cove molding. The top and cove molding overhang the case slightly at the back. The top is secured to the case by means of two full-length longitudinal battens, one at the back and one at the front of the case, to which it is joined by glue and blind dovetails, by blocks between the battens nailed with brads to the top, and by two rectangular horizontal glue blocks at the joints between the battens and the case top and five between the front batten and the top rail. The longitudinal battens are secured to the single-board case sides with blind dovetails. Below the battens are full-depth wood strips (one missing), affixed to the case sides with rosehead nails which prevent the top drawer from tipping forward when open. The case contains one long drawer above two banks of three graduated short drawers, centering a recessed door. Within the upper part of the case are drawer stops glued into the rear corners. At the rear is a full-width drawer support, forming part of the central recessed compartment's roof, the balance of which is a separate board, nailed to the upright partitions below, being also the ceiling of the recessed portion of the case. Within the banks of small drawers are full-depth drawer supports, fixed to the case sides with rosehead nails. Inside the proper right case side at the top drawer is an area of roughly finished mahogany. The case back consists of two horizontal half-lapped boards, fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the case sides and directly to the horizontal batten beneath the top and to the case bottom. A rectangular wood patch in the proper right portion of the upper back board fills in a knot hole. Two rosehead nails in the bottom of the upper back board are nailed into the interior partitions of the drawer banks. The top rail of the case fits into grooves in the case sides. The drawer dividers and the bottom rail are secured to the case sides with half-blind dovetails. The mahogany fronts of the integrally cockbeaded drawer dividers vary in depth, being deeper above and shallower below. The cockbeading at the vertical portions of the drawer openings is applied to the case sides with brads. The concave- and convex-blocked upper drawer front has applied shell carvings centering a convex-carved shell and is attached to its drawer sides with dovetail joints, having finely cut pins with half-pins above and below. The drawer sides bear prominent scribe lines, the drawer fronts faint kerf marks. The tops of the drawer sides are arched and shy of their drawer fronts. The drawer side tops flatten toward the back, where they are chamfered to align with the drawer back tops. The upper drawer bottom consists of two boards parallel to the drawer front, chamfered at the front where it fits into a rabbet, and at the sides, where it is secured by full-depth runners nailed with brads. It is attached to the drawer back with rosehead nails. The small drawer fronts are convex-blocked and their sides, backs and bottoms configured differently: the drawer sides are full-height and the drawer bottoms are flat, perpendicular to the front and nailed to the drawer backs with brads. Fixed to the drawer bottoms with brads are full depth drawer runners chamfered at the ends. Beside that chamfer a portion of the bottom of the drawer side end is cut out, revealing the rabbet into which the drawer bottom fits. The concave-blocked and shell-carved door in the recessed central portion of the case opens to reveal two fixed shelves, set in grooves in the case partitions and having half-round front edges. The three-board case bottom is slightly shy of the bottom of the base molding and is dovetailed to the case sides. Rosehead nails in the case bottom are nailed up into the small-drawer partitions. The base molding at the front of the recessed portion is attached with a variety of nails. The front faces of the front four ogee bracket feet are convex-blocked and volute-carved. Behind the brackets are rectangular vertical blocks attached to the case bottom, carved at the base to align with the outside brackets, and flanked by carved glue blocks. The rear feet are constructed similarly, except for the back faces, which are simple scrolling brackets set into grooves in the ogee bracket side faces. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, November 14, 2012; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

See also


Bibliography

Edwin J Hipkiss, "Boston Museum Opens Magnificent Karolik Collection," American Collector 10, no. 11 (December 1941): 11, ill.
Williams Germain Dooley, "The Karolik Collection," Antiques 40, no. 6 (December 1941): 358, fig. 10.
Mabel M. Swan, "The Goddard and Townsend Joiners, Part I," Antiques 49, no. 4 (April 1946): 229, fig. 2.
Joseph Downs, "Furniture at the Forum: Regional Characteristics of American Furniture I," Antiques 55, no. 6 (June 1949): 439, fig. 8a.
Edwin J Hipkiss, Eighteenth-Century American Arts: The M. and M. Karolik Collection (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1950), 68-69, no. 38, Accession no. 41.579; details on Supplement 38.
Albert Sack, Fine Points of Furniture: Early American (New York: Crown Publishers, 1950), 152, ill.
"The Editor's Attic," Antiques 57, no. 6 (June 1950): 454, fig. 2.
Albert Sack, "Israel Sack: A Record of Service 1903–1953," Israel Sack, Inc. (1953): 16–17, ill.
Elizabeth Stillinger, The Antiques Guide to Decorative Arts in America, 1600–1875 (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972), 166, ill.
Morrison H. Heckscher, "John Townsend's Block-and-Shell Furniture," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 1150, fig. 18.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 262, 277–280, fig. 3.53, 3.63, 6.10.
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): 32, 34, 44,47, fig. 4, 11.
Gerald W. R. Ward, "American's Contribution to Craftsmanship: The Exaltation and Interpretation of Newport Furniture," American Furniture (1999): 227, fig. 3.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Silver, Prints, Folk Art, and Decorative Arts, sale cat. (January 15–16, 1999), 142, fig. 3, 3A.
Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 232, 234, 246, 248, 250, fig. 97–98.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005), 40–41, fig. 27–28.
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), 279, no. 51, fig. 3, 5.