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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Bequest of Martha B. Lisle, 67.166; photo by Erik Gould
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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF1228

Maker

Maker attributed John Goddard, 1723/24–1785

Dimensions

245.11 x 116.364 x 66.04 cm (96 1/2 x 45 13/16 x 26 in.)

Date

1761

Current location


Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); mahogany(?) (glue blocks of feet ); maple (pediment backboard, bookcase bottom, horizontal glue blocks of feet, top and bottom boards of bookcase, backings of drawer dividers[?], horizontal support for well cover[?], and blocks on interior of lopers[?]); red cedar (bookcase linings, bookcase dividers, bookcase shelves, and linings of interior desk drawers); white pine (boards of pediment top, transverse blocks of bonnet, back and bottoms of exterior drawers, drawer runners, board under desk interior, backboards of desk; supports under lopers, drawer supports [probably replaced], drawer guides [probably replaced], and brackets of rear feet); birch or cottonwood(?) (exterior drawer sides); chestnut (loper guides)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"Made by John Goddard / 1761 and repaired by / Thomas Goddard In 1813 [graphite] / Repaired by R. Winkler 1879 / Polished '' } Cleveland Bros.," in chalk, on exterior back of top prospect drawer; "Made By John Goddard / 1761 & Repeard By / Thomas Goddard 1813 / Repaired by Langley & Bennett / 1863 / Repaired, scraped & varnished / By Cleveland Bros. / 1879," in graphite, on exterior back of middle prospect drawer; "Made by John Goddard 1761 and repaired / by Thomas Goddard his Son 1813 / Hea[l]th Officer of the Town of / Newport Appointed by the / Honr Town Council Members / Nicholas Taylor Esqr & my son T Topham [Thomas Goddard's son-in-law]", in graphite, on exterior proper-left side of middle prospect drawer; “Bottom,” incised on underside of bookcase; illegible graphite, on interior back of top exterior drawer; "A," in graphite, on interior back of upper exterior drawer; “B,” in graphite, on interior back of middle exterior drawer; “C,” in graphite, on interior back of lower exterior drawer; “1,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-right shell drawer; “2,” on interior back and sides [at front corners] of proper-right middle drawer; “3,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-right lower drawer; “I,” “II,” and “III,” incised on top fronts of proper right drawers [top to bottom]; “4,” in graphite, on interior back of drawer to proper-right of prospect; “VI,” incised on top front of drawer to proper-right of prospect; “1” through “6,” in graphite, on interior backs of valance drawers [proper-right to proper-left];. “I,” incised on top front of proper-right outside valance drawer; “III,” incised on top front of proper-right middle valance drawer; “II,” incised on top front of proper-right inside valance drawer; “IIII,” “V,” and “VI,” incised on top fronts of proper-left valance drawers [proper-right to proper-left]; “4” through “6,” in graphite, on interior backs of prospect drawers [from top to bottom]; "[?]250," in graphite, on interior bottom of drawer marked “7”; “V” and “VI,” incised on top fronts of upper and middle prospect drawers; “6,” in graphite, on interior proper-left side of middle prospect drawer; “8,” in graphite, on interior back and interior proper-right side [at front corner] of drawer to proper-left of prospect, “9,” in graphite, in interior back and interior proper-right side [at front corner] of proper-left shell drawer; mathematical figures, in chalk, on exterior bottom of proper-left shell drawer; “10,” interior back and sides [at front corners] of proper-left middle drawer; “A,” in chalk, on interior bottom of proper-left middle drawer; “VIII,” incised on top front of drawer to proper-left of prospect; “VIIII” and “IX,” incised on top front of proper-left shell drawer; “X,” incised, on top front of proper-left middle drawer; "XI,” incised on top front of proper-left lower drawer; “B,” in graphite, on top and underside of divider under center exterior drawer; “C,” in graphite, on top of lower front rail of bookcase; “Bottom,” in chalk, on underside of bookcase; mathematical figures, in graphite, on upper surface of top board of bookcase

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Dr. Thomas Mawney Potter (1814–1890), Kingston, Rhode Island, about 1870; by descent to his sister Mary E. Potter (1820–1901)Kingston, Rhode Island; by descent to her nephew James Brown Mason Potter, Jr., (1850–1916), South Kingstown, Rhode Island; sold to Arthur B. Lisle (1871–1949), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his wife, Martha B. Lisle (1875–1967), Providence, Rhode Island; bequeathed to Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1967

Associated names

Thomas Mawney Potter
Mary E. Potter
James Brown Mason Potter, Jr.
Arthur B. Lisle
Martha Lisle
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design

Construction

The roof of the bookcase section consists of several thin boards shaped to align with the closed scrolling pediment and nailed with brads to backboards, scrollboards, interior partitions within the pediment, and to blocking atop the bookcase sides below. The single-piece crown molding is fixed by invisible means and by wood-filled fasteners to the sides and scrollboard. The lower, beaded portions of the crown molding meet a molding of similar profile encircling the three-quarter-round oculi at the center of the pediment. At the terminus of each meeting point is a spliced portion of molding. The termini differ in size and configuration. The oculi center a rectangular plinth, fluted on three sides, having a molded base and simple cap, and supporting a double-reeded urnform finial with reel-turned base and corkscrew flame. Simpler plinths, fluted on their outside faces and sitting upon the tops of the bookcase?s outer stiles, support similar finials. Scrolling, thumb-molded plaques are fastened from behind to the scrollboard, which meets the upper-case stiles in miter joints. The bookcase back consists of three half-lapped vertical boards fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the case sides and directly to vertical and horizontal members within the bookcase. The single-board bookcase sides meet the two-board bookcase bottom in half-blind dovetail joints, with thick-necked pins of varying configuration, and a large half-pin in front. At the back corners of the bookcase bottom are half-dovetails and large rabbets. The front corners of the bookcase sides are rabbeted to form veneers below the stop-fluted quarter columns. The bottom rail is similarly rabbeted to receive the veneer below the quarter columns. There are small nail heads at both ends of the underside of the bottom rail and several wood pins in its front face. The bookcase interior contains two vertical and six horizontal fixed members, each with straight double-beaded front edges, each set into V-grooves in their respective neighboring elements. The shelves are V-grooved above and below to allow for the adjustment of nine removable vertical dividers of varying heights, each with a scalloped front and a circular finger hold. The bookcase floor and ceiling are also grooved; the interior walls consist of multiple narrow vertical boards. There are two doors; one single, one bi-fold. The proper right (single) door and the left-hand panel of the proper left (bi-fold) door are constructed similarly. They consist of rails tenoned to stiles without wood pins, inside of which is nailed a cove molding, outside of which is glued a convex-blocked panel and a separate convex carved shell. The central, proper right panel of the bi-fold door is a single piece, concave-blocked and concave-shell-carved outside, and slightly convex-blocked inside. The method of attachment of the desk top to the lower-case sides is concealed by a single-piece molding. Presumably, it is half-blind dovetailed to the lower-case sides, which are – proper right: three-board, with a narrow strip in back; and proper left: two-board, with a narrow strip in back. The case back contains two horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with rosehead and other nails into rabbets in the case sides and directly to the single-board case bottom, which meets the two-board case bottom in half-blind dovetail joints with thick-necked pins of varying configurations. The hinged thumb-molded lid consists of two flanking vertical boards to which are tenoned a large horizontal board centering a concave shell-carved panel, flanked by applied convex panels topped by applied convex shells. The joints between the vertical and horizontal boards are visible at the bottom of the desk lid when it is closed. Behind each brass escutcheon plate is a locking mechanism. The interior centers a concave-blocked shell-carved prospect door opening to a shelved interior, flanked by double-beaded pilasters and open compartments separated by scrolling uprights with three-quarter-spherical concave blocked small drawers with scalloped skirts above and convex-blocked small drawers below, in turn flanked by banks of three concave-blocked small drawers, the upper ones shell-carved. The interior sits behind a sliding well cover within a molded frame and above a molded base. The valanced small-drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arched-top drawer sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut pins with half-pins above and below. Their single-board drawer bottoms are parallel to the drawer fronts and held into rabbets above with glue and occasionally with nails. The fronts of the large interior drawers meet their slightly rounded, shorter drawer sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. Their single-board drawer bottoms are fastened as the smaller drawer bottoms are. The tops of the interior drawer backs are flat, with a slight chamfer at the back edge and at the outside corners. Visible inside the top of the lower case is the unfinished underside of the board underneath the desk interior. It rests upon transverse boards which are grooved to receive the well-cover tongue, which are supported by a longitudinal brace fixed to the inside of the backboard. Beneath the transverse boards are contiguous strips which provide a tip board and a guide for the lopers, which rest upon full-depth supports nailed with brads to the case sides. Near the front of the case are blocks which further support and enclose the lopers. The three drawers of the lower case rest upon supports nailed with brads to the case sides. The upper drawer, narrower than the two below, has guides set inward of the lopers with blocks behind. Drawer stops are nailed to the case sides between the drawer supports. The top and bottom rails and drawer dividers meet the case sides in half-blind dovetail joints. The drawer openings have integral, horizontal cockbeading; the vertical cockbeading is set into the routed inside fronts of the case sides and glued. As the upper drawer front is notched at its upper corners to accommodate the lopers, its sides are inset, and appear to be set into grooves in the drawer front. The blocked drawer fronts are cut from the solid, reinforced with applied blocking nailed with brads behind each central concave portion. There are prominent short, horizontal scribe lines on the upper drawer-front bottom between the tops of the convex and concave blocked portions. The lower drawer-fronts meet their arched-top, somewhat lower drawer sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut pins of varying configurations, with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The multi-board, full-width drawer bottoms, perpendicular to the fronts, are flat in front, where they are nailed to the drawer front above, and chamfered at the sides, where they are held in place with brads through full-depth runners. The drawer bottoms are nailed with brads to the flat-topped drawer backs with chamfered back edges. The additional moldings applied to the base between the front and rear feet are replaced. The feet consist of shaped vertical uprights attached directly to the case bottom, flanked by horizontal blocking, the whole faced with mahogany brackets. The rear feet are constructed in a similar fashion, except for the back brackets, which are simple straight-profiled and serpentine. The proper left back bracket sits in a groove on the back of the outside-facing bracket. The proper right back bracket is butted to the back of its outside facing bracket. Some elements of the blocking and facing of the feet are replaced. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, June, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

See also


Bibliography

Norman M. Isham, "Bulletin," Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design 22 (1927): cover ill.
"The Editor's Attic: Frontispiece," Antiques 15, no. 4 (April 1929): 274–277, ill. frontispiece.
E. T. Casey, "Early Newport Furniture," Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design 24 (April 1936): 26–27, ill.
Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., "The Newport Exhibition," Antiques 64, no. 1 (July 1953): 43, fig. 22.
Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., The Arts and Crafts of Newport, Rhode Island, 1640–1820 (Newport, R.I.: Preservation Society of Newport County, 1954), 69–70, 205, no. 43, ill.
Wendell D. Garrett, "Speculations on the Rhode Island Block-Front in 1928," Antiques 99, no. 6 (June 1971): 890, ill.
Hedy B. Landman, "The Pendleton House at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design," Antiques 107, no. 5 (May 1975): 934, ill.
"Giving an Elephant to Blind Men? The Cross-Disciplinary Role of a Desk and Bookcase," Arts Magazine 59, no. 2 (October 1984): 93–94, fig. 6.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 314–15, fig. 8.10, 8.10a–c.
Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye, New England Furniture: The Colonial Era (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984), 35–36, fig. I-41, I-41a.
Christopher P. Monkhouse and Thomas S. Michie, American Furniture in Pendleton House (Providence: RISD Museum, 1986), 96, 98, no. 39, fig. 39, 39a, 39b.
Jeanne Vibert Sloane, "John Cahoone and the Newport Furniture Industry," Old-Time New England 72 (1987): 101, fig. 2.
Jeffrey P. Greene, American Furniture of the 18th Century: History, Technique, Structure (Newtown, Conn: The Taunton Press, 1996), 69, 265, ill.
Brock Jobe, "The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon," American Furniture (2001): 120–151, fig. 1–5, 25–32, 36,.
Angela Miller, American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008), 118, fig. 4.27.
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), 2, 58n12, 104, 292, 298–302, 308, 310, 313n1, 358, 444n6, 447, no. 57, fig. 1–4, 7.