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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Bernon E. Helme and Nathaniel Helme, 40.790
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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF1230

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

258.446 x 109.538 x 66.04 cm (101 3/4 x 43 1/8 x 26 in.)

Date

1760–1780

Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); mahogany? (boards of pediment top); chestnut (backboards of desk and blocks on inside of lopers); pine (top of desk, blocks of desk top, drawer divider backings of desk, board under desk interior, bottom board of desk, brackets of rear feet, stops for interior desk drawers, linings of exterior desk drawers, pediment backboards, and top of bookcase); red cedar (linings of interior desk drawers); cherry (backboards of bookcase)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“1” through “3,” in chalk, on interior backs of proper-right interior desk drawers [from top to bottom]; illegible chalk [probably “4”], on interior back of drawer to proper-right of prospect; “5” through “7,” in chalk, on interior backs of prospect drawers [from top to bottom]; illegible chalk [probably “8”], on interior back of drawer to proper-left of prospect; “9" through "11,” in chalk, on interior backs of proper-left interior desk drawers [from top to bottom]; “I” through “XI,” stamped on most interior backs and sides and top of fronts of interior desk drawers [the front of drawer “V,” the sides of drawer “VI,” the back and front of drawer “VII,” and the front of drawer “VIII” (“IVIII,” stamped on interior back of drawer “VIII”) are not stamped]; “I” through “VI,” stamped on interior backs and sides and top of fronts of valance drawers; “A” through “C,” in chalk, on interior backs of exterior desk drawers [also a “B” on exterior back of drawer “B”]; illegible chalk [probably a letter], on divider under middle exterior desk drawer; “B,” in chalk, on exterior bottom of desk; “X” with “2” above and below, in chalk, at interior juncture of two backboards at of desk; “II” and “III,” incised and in blue chalk, on exterior desk backboards; illegible chalk and graphite, on exterior of pediment backboard; “Repaired by James R. North / Refinished by Philip Clemens /July/August 1936,” in graphite, on interior front of pediment.

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

James Helme; by descent to Elisha Reynolds Potter (1764–1835), Kingstown, Rhode Island; by descent to his son Thomas Mawney Potter (1814–1890) Kingstown, Rhode Island. Bernon E. Helme and Nathaniel Helme, Kingstown, Rhode Island; given to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1940

Associated names

James Helme
Judge Elisha Reynolds Potter
Thomas Mawney Potter
Nathaniel Helme
Bernon Elijah Helme

Notes

This example is one of nine Rhode Island blockfront desk and bookcases onamented with six shells.

See also


Bibliography

Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926), vol. 1, pp. 249–250, fig. 273.
Mabel M. Swan, "The Goddard and Townsend Joiners, Part II," Antiques 49, no. 5 (May 1946): 293, fig. 3.
Richard H Randall, Jr., American Furniture in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1965), 84–86, no. 62, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 309–311, fig. 8.5, 8.5a–c.
Brock Jobe, "The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon," American Furniture (2001): 127, fig. 9–10.