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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Gift of Mary Lemoine Potter 33.216; photo by Erik Gould
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Bureau table


Object number

RIF690

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

34 x 36 x 19 1/2 in. (86.36 x 91.44 x 49.53 cm)

Date

1760–85

Current location

Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); pine (secondary)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“1” through “ 4,” in graphite, on interior fronts of first four interior drawers [beginning at proper-right]; “5” and “6,” in graphite, on exterior back of last two interior drawers [from proper-right to proper-left]; “J,” “F,” or double loop, in chalk, on exterior back of removable desk interior; “1” through “6,” in graphite, on interior backs of exterior drawers [numbers retraced over older numbers]; faint numbers, in graphite, on some interior drawer bottoms at front; numbers, on some proper-right exterior drawer sides at top front corner; “1[?]” through “6[?],” in graphite, on tops of dividers under exterior drawers [numbers retraced over older numbers]; “GS,” in chalk, on exterior bottom of chest; mathematical figures, in graphite, on underside of divider under proper-left top drawer

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Mrs. Elisha R. Potter (née Mary Mawney 1779–1835), Kingston, Rhode Island; by descent to her grand-daughter Mary LeMoine Potter (1860–1938), South Kingstown, Rhode Island, before 1933; given to the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1933

Associated names

Judge Elisha Reynolds Potter
Mary Mawney Potter
Thomas Mawney Potter
Mary LeMoine Potter

Construction

The rectangular, oblong, single-board top is molded on the front and sides, and square at its back edge, where it is flush with the back of the case below. The beaded case molding underneath is face-nailed to the case and also flush with the case back. The top joins the case by means of half-dovetail keyways atop each single-board case side. The case back consists of two horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the case top and sides and fixed directly to the back edge of the case bottoms, but not to the interior partitions. Tip bars are fixed with rosehead and other nails to the case sides directly below the top. A support for the top drawer spans the back of the case. On top of it in each corner are vertical drawer stops. Behind the top rail (whose cockbeading is attached with nails) are three rectilinear glue blocks. Within the banks of drawer below are drawer supports with chamfered ends fixed to the case sides and intermediate partitions with rosehead nails. The dust-board under the frieze drawer is not full-width; it provides a ceiling for the central cupboard section, but not for the flanking banks of drawers. The top rail, drawer dividers, and bottom rails all meet their case sides in half-blind dovetail joints. The dividers? horizontal cockbeading is integral; the openings? vertical cockbeading is glued in place. The joints between the single-board inside walls of the drawer banks and the underside of the drawer divider below the frieze drawer are concealed, and the portion of the divider which spans the recessed section is not cockbeaded on its bottom edge. The convex shells of the block-fronted frieze-drawer front are applied, and its back is flat, forming part of the desk interior?s writing surface when open. The drawer front is rabbeted at the ends of its inside face to fit against the ends of its drawer –sides, fastened together by hooks screwed into the inside faces of the drawer sides and ?eyes? screwed into the back of the drawer fronts beside the rabbets. Quarter-spherical voids are carved out of the drawer-side fronts to accommodate the eye hardware. The frieze-drawer front is joined to its bottom by two pairs of iron hinges, each leaf thrice-screwed; the front edge of the drawer bottom is routed to allow the bottom of the drawer to fit against it when open. The nuts and screws which attach the drawer pulls are visible on the drawer back/ writing surface. The two-board drawer bottom, parallel to the front, meets the flat-topped sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins with half-pins in back. The drawer has a ?ceiling? of mahogany and a ?floor? of pine which enclose the desk interior. The frieze-drawer back is wood-pinned to its drawer sides, floor, and ceiling. The desk interior includes a prospect section of two concave-blocked small drawers flanked by banks of open compartments over convex, then concave small drawers. The kerf-marked drawer fronts, cut from the solid, are flat on the inside and meet their slightly shorter, arched-top sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins of slightly varying configuration, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The upper corners and back edges of the drawer-back tops are rounded to align with the tops of the drawer sides. The single-board bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are glued into rabbets in the elements above. The slightly kerf-marked, single-board drawers fronts in the banks below have incurvate inside faces and meet their slightly shorter, slightly scribe-marked, arched-top sides in dovetail joints having finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and below. The single-board drawer bottoms are perpendicular to the fronts and full-width as well as full-depth, nailed with brads to the elements above. The upper corners and back edges of the drawer-back tops are rounded, like the interior drawers, to align with the drawer-side tops. The single-piece, shell-carved, concave-blocked, flat-backed door of the recessed cupboard between the banks of drawers has a cockbeaded frame and opens to shelves with ledgers. A single-piece base molding is fixed to the case with wood-filled fasteners. The single-board case bottom meets the case sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins and is fixed to the bottom rail under the recessed cupboard with rosehead nails. The feet consist of vertical rectangular blocks attached directly to the case bottom and flanked by shaped horizontal blocks, the whole faced with ogee bracket feet. The front-facing brackets are blocked and scroll-carved. The back-facing brackets of the rear feet are simple straight-profiled trapezoidal boards set into grooves in the side-facing brackets. These straight brackets are partially revealed in dovetail-shaped notches in the backs of the side-facing brackets, which project beyond the plane of the backboard. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, October 27, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

Norman M. Isham, "Bulletin," Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design 22 (1927): 17, fig. 3.
"Authenticated Goddard," American Collector 2, no. 12 (November 29, 1934): 2, ill.
"Bulletin," Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design 22 (October 1934): 59.
Mabel M. Swan, "The Goddard and Townsend Joiners, Part II," Antiques 49, no. 5 (May 1946): 292, fig. 1.
Clifford P. Monahon, "John Brown House Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture," Rhode Island History 24, no. 2 (April 1965): 38–39, ill.
Lester Margon, Masterpieces of American Furniture, 1620–1840: A Compendium, with Photographs, Measured Drawings, and Descriptive Commentary (New York: Architectural Book Publishing, 1965), 195, ill.
"Rhode Island History," Rhode Island History 24 (1965): 38.
Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 118–119, no. 73, Detail on p.168, fig. 73, ill.
Joseph K. Ott, "The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture," Antiques 87, no. 5 (May 1965): 566–567, ill.
Hedy B. Landman, "The Pendleton House at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design," Antiques 107, no. 5 (May 1975): 931, ill.
John Fleming and Hugh Honour, The Peguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts (London: Penguin Books, 1977), 337, ill.
"Antique Monthly," Antique Monthly 14 (January 1981): 17, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 6, 30, fig. 1.11.
Carla Mathes Woodward and Franklin W. Robinson, eds., A Handbook of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, exh. cat. (Providence, R.I.: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1985), 317, no. 269, ill.
Christopher P. Monkhouse and Thomas S. Michie, American Furniture in Pendleton House (Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1986), 84–85, no. 30, ill.
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), 58n18, 233n3, 280n3.