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Photo: Courtesy The Chipstone Foundation, Fox Point, Wis., 1985.12; photo by Gavin Ashworth
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High chest of drawers


Object number

RIF1215

Maker

Maker Christopher Townsend, 1701-1787
Maker John Townsend, American, 1732–1809

Dimensions

212.408 x 102.87 x 56.515 cm (83 5/8 x 40 1/2 x 22 1/4 in.)

Date

1750–1755

Current location

The Chipstone Foundation

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); mahogany (most glue blocks on legs); yellow poplar (drawer linings, drawer runners, most drawer supports of upper case, kick bars for upper drawers of upper case, back and bottom boards of upper case, blocks on exterior bottom of upper case, backboard of lower case, backing of vertical rails of lower case, and guides for lower drawers of lower case); pine (drawer divider backings, upper front rail lower case, horizontal support for drawer guides for small upper case drawers, supports for lower drawer of upper case, blocks inside front rail of upper case, drawer supports of lower case, and rear vertical block on proper-left rear leg); hickory (spring lock latches)

Marks

“Christopher,” in graphite, on exterior back of proper-left upper drawer; “John To[?],” in graphite, on exterior bottom of bottom drawer of upper case; faint names, including “Christopher” and “John,” in graphite, on exterior back of bottom drawer of upper case

Inscriptions

“A,” in graphite, on exterior back of proper-right upper drawer; “B,” in graphite, on exterior back of middle upper drawer; “D[aniel?],” in graphite, on exterior back of top long drawer of upper case; “E,” in graphite, on exterior back of middle long drawer of upper case; “A[?],” in graphite, on exterior bottom of lower drawer of upper case; faint letters or initials, including “G,” in graphite, on exterior back of lower drawer of upper case; “C,” in graphite, on top surface of divider under middle long drawer; “Bottom,” in chalk, on underside of upper case; graphite [probably random], on interior case bottom; “A,” in chalk, on exterior back of upper drawer of lower case; faint chalk markings [probably letters], on exterior backs of lower drawers of lower case; “2 A” and drawing of broken-arch pediment, in graphite, on top surface of front rail of lower case; “C[?],” in graphite, on exterior back of lower case; "A," in chalk, twice on inside of stepped pediment

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

By descent in the Birckhead, Hall, Howe, and Ward families of Newport, Rhode Island. John Walton, Inc., Griswold and Jewett City, Connecticut, 1985; sold to Polly Mariner Stone (1898–1995) and Stanley Stone (1896–1987), Fox Point, Wisconsin, 1985; bequeathed by Stanley Stone to The Chipstone Foundation, Fox Point, Wisconsin, 1987

Associated names

Birckhead family
Hall family
Howe family
Ward family
John Walton, Inc.
Stanley Stone
Polly Mariner Stone

Construction

The stepped pediment (currently detachable) is secured to the upper-case top by five horizontal glue blocks. Three are attached to the upper-case top – two behind the front of the first "riser" of the pediment, and one in front of its backboard. Two are fixed inside the first riser?s sides; the proper right block is triangular, the proper left slightly trapezoidal. The sides of the pediment?s risers are set into grooves in its backboard. The riser fronts meet their sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins with half-pins above and below. The pediment?s "treads" have rounded edges and are face-nailed to the risers below. The treads and risers are nailed with brads through the backboard; there are more nails on the proper left side than the proper right. The pediment backboard is a single board with square, scalloped edges and an arched (repaired) pinnacle. On the top of its proper left ogee-shaped terminus is a nail head; on the top of its proper right terminus are two scribe lines. The two-board upper-case top is dovetailed to the two-board case sides, which are dovetailed to the single-board case bottom, to which are applied, with rosehead nails and brads, transverse blocks at its proper left and right extremities. Single-piece crown and base moldings are fixed to the case with brads and wood-filled fasteners. The top and bottom rail fit into grooves in the case sides; the drawer dividers are half-blind dovetailed. There are four horizontal chamfered glue blocks behind the top rail and three tip boards – one each glued to the case sides and one nailed with brads to the mid-point of the case – under the case top. The upper-case small drawers have a longitudinal support set into grooves in the case sides and back. Into this support are tenoned transverse supports, also tenoned into the upper drawer divider. Glued to them are small drawer guides. The vertical elements between the small drawers are rabbeted to fit around the top rail and nailed with brads from under the transverse drawer supports. The upper, small drawers have spring locks, fixed to their undersides with rosehead nails. The lipped, thumb-molded, slightly kerf-marked drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, slightly round-topped sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The small-drawer bottoms are perpendicular to their fronts; the long-drawer bottoms are parallel. The single-board bottoms are chamfered at the front, where they are set into grooves, and at the sides; where they are nailed with brads through full-depth runners, to the drawer sides above. The bottoms are nailed with brads to the drawer backs, whose flat tops are slightly chamfered at the back. The lower-case back is a single horizontal board with two small inserts (with cove-shaped inner profiles) at its lower corners. It meets the single-board, scallop-skirted sides in half-blind dovetail joints, with half-pins above and below. Its inside corners are routed vertically to receive the "detachable" legs and horizontally to receive the transverse supports and guides for the wide upper drawer. The mahogany top rail is rabbeted to receive the veneered front stiles of the lower case and meets the case sides in half-dovetail joints reinforced with brads. Supports for the lower, small drawers are half-lapped to the scalloped skirt board and set into grooves in the backboard. Guides for the drawers are tenoned into the uprights which divide them and set into grooves in the backboard. The uprights dividing the drawers are set into grooves in the drawer divider above and nailed with brads into the central portion of the skirtboard. The lowercase drawers have no runners, but are constructed in a manner similar to those above, except in the case of their bottoms, which are nailed with brads. There is a partially reeded acorn-form pendant in the center of the skirt. Shaped vertical glue blocks reinforce the joints between the vertical drawer dividers and the skirtboard. The proper left block is missing. Similar blocks are glued and nailed with brads into the top of the "detachable" cabriole legs, which are square-sectioned, with angular knees, glued-on knee brackets (omitted at the back), and carved claws and talons grasping flattened-ball feet. The rear legs project beyond the plane of the lower-case backboard. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, May 23, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

"John Walton, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 128, no. 6 (December 1985): 1050, ill.
Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, "Living with Antiques: Chipstone near Milwaukee," Antiques 133, no. 5 (May 1988): 1154, Pl. XVI, ill.
Ann Smart Martin, Makers and Users: American Decorative Arts, 1630–1820, from the Chipstone Collection, exh. cat. (Madison, Wis.: Elvehjem Museum of Art, 1999), 17, 58, 63, no. 75, pl. 6, fig. 26.
Luke Beckerdite, "The Early Furniture of Christopher and Job Townsend," American Furniture (2000): 11, 16, 17, fig. 20, 30, 31.
Erik Gronning and Amy Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition," American Furniture (2013): 29–30, fig. 65–66.
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), 31n44, 214–217, 220, 228, 451, 453, no. 31, fig. 1, 2.