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From: Gronning and Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition,"American Furniture(2013):33
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Dressing table


Object number

RIF827

Maker

Maker: attributed to Christopher Townsend, 1701-1787
Maker: attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732–1809
Maker: formerly attributed to John Goddard, 1723/24–1785

Dimensions

78.74 x 90.805 x 55.88 cm (31 x 35 3/4 x 22 in.)

Date

1750–1755

Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (sides and bottoms of all drawers, rails either side of central drawer, drawer supports, and corner blocks); eastern white pine (drawer backs, back of top rails, and transverse battens under top); chestnut (corner blocks and support for proper right drawer)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

Elaborate letter [multiple A’s?], in graphite, on exterior back of proper-right deep drawer; “B,” in graphite, on exterior back of proper-left deep drawer; “2 [probably later],” in graphite, on exterior bottom of proper-right deep drawer; possible illegible graphite, in front corners of deep drawers; faint graphite [M?], on interior back of middle drawer; "I [or F] H," in chalk, at center of back; "Bought of Miss / Charlotte Foster / to whom her / sister left her mother's / Furniture," in chalk, on proper-right exterior of back board

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Charlotte Foster, probably Rhode Island. Chase family, Providence, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine, area; sold to David Stockwell, Inc., Wilmington, Delaware; sold to Ima Hogg (1882–1975), Houston, Texas, 1959; given to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1959

Associated names

Charlotte Foster
David Stockwell, Inc.
Ima Hogg

Construction

The oblong, rectangular top has a shaped edge, thumb-molded and quarter round on all four sides, with four incurvate corners. It is secured to the case below by rosehead nails through four battens on its underside – one longitudinal, directly behind the top rail, and three transverse, one at the approximate center line of the case, and one each near the case sides. The three transverse battens are set into grooves in the back boards and the front batten. There is a single nail pocket inside the backboard. The single-board, straight-skirted backboard is dovetailed to the single-board, scallop-skirted case sides, with pins of varying configuration, with half-pins above and below. There are several, probably later, nails in the proper left lower corner of the backboard. The joints between the case sides and front stiles are concealed by vertical mahogany strips. There are two guides for the flanking deep drawers, each one set into grooves in the case sides, case back and front stiles. Two more guides are set into grooves in the backboard and tenoned into vertical blocks behind the stiles of the front of the case. These vertical blocks are set into grooves in the underside of the longitudinal batten behind the top rail, and reinforced by rectangular vertical glue blocks with chamfered ends. Three drawer supports are set into grooves in the backboard and dovetailed to the skirtboard. The two deep and one shallow drawers have fronts that are thumb-molded and exhibit short kerf marks. They meet their arch-topped drawer sides, of which they are slightly proud, in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The ends of the drawer-side tops are shaped to align with the drawer-back tops. The flat, single-board drawer bottoms are perpendicular to the fronts, and nailed with brads into the rabbets in the drawer fronts, and directly to the bottom of the drawer sides and backs. At the center of the scalloped front skirt is a carved shell within an incised half-circle. The legs are of the "detachable" sort, held into each corner with vertical chamfered glue blocks, some reinforced with later nails. Knee brackets are secured with glue to the legs and the skirts. The legs are square in section and have angular knees, deeply carved ankles and claws, with undercut talons grasping spherical ball feet. Examined by P. E. Kane, August 8, 2013; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

"David Stockwell, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 77, no. 1 (January 1960): 1, ill.
Helen Comstock, "The American Lowboy: An Antiques Survey," Antiques 80, no. 6 (December 1961): 572, fig. 6.
Helen Comstock, American Furniture: Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Century Styles (New York: Viking Press, 1962), 79, fig. 221.
David B. Warren, "American Decorative Arts in Texas: The Bayou Bend Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston," Antiques 90, no. 6 (December 1966): 803, ill.
David B. Warren, Bayou Bend: American Furniture, Paintings, and Silver from the Bayou Bend Collection (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1975), 60, fig. 115.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 187, fig. 3.105.
David B. Warren et al., American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1998), 76–77, no. F126, ill.
Erik Gronning and Amy Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition," American Furniture (2013): 32–33, fig. 73–75.