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Photo: Courtesy private collection; photo by Christopher Gardner
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Slant-front desk


Object number

RIF1642

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

42 1/2 x 36 1/4 x 19 in. (107.95 x 92.075 x 48.26 cm) Height (writing level): 31 1/2 in. (80.01 cm)

Date

1740–60

Current location

Private collection

Geography

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

Medium

Walnut and ash(?) and maple inlay (primary); chestnut (linings of interior drawers, sides and back of exterior drawers, side guides for upper exterior drawers, dust board under top exterior drawers, lining of removable central compartment of desk interior, bottom board of case, and platform on exterior case bottom); pine (lining of proper-left lower interior drawer [original?], bottoms of exterior drawers, runners and supports for exterior drawers, central guide for upper exterior drawers, backing of exterior drawer dividers, board under desk interior, blocks on rear feet, and case backboard)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“X” or “V,” incised on interior fronts, backs, and sides [at front corners] of interior drawers; mathematical calculations, in chalk, on exterior back of one of lower interior drawers; “C,” incised on interior front of upper cabinet drawer; probably “C,” in chalk, on interior bottom of upper cabinet drawer; probably “D,” in chalk, on interior bottom of lower cabinet drawer; “V B [later?],” in red chalk, on interior front of bottom exterior drawer

Style

Queen Anne

Provenance

By descent in the Wardwell family, Bristol, Rhode Island, before 1965. Harry Arons, Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1965; sold to Ardis Leigh, Basking Ridge, New Jersey; sold to Israel Sack, Inc., New York, 1965; sold to private collection, 1965. Israel Sack, Inc., New York, 1972, 1982, and 1991; sold to a private collection

Associated names

Wardwell family
Harry Arons
Ardis Leigh
Israel Sack, Inc.

Construction

The line-inlaid single-board top is blind-dovetailed to the multi-board star- and line-inlaid case sides. The hinged, lipped lid consists of two large horizontal boards tenoned into flanking vertical rails. Its exterior face is divided by line inlaid into two rectangular reserves with crossbanded corners, each reserve centering an inlaid star. A horizontal rail at the bottom of the lid appears to an old repair. The tenons between the upper horizontal board and the vertical rails are visible at the outside edge of the lid. The interior includes a removable prospect section with a door having a double-arch inlaid border centering heart and compass inlays, opening to a valanced compartment over two line-inlaid small drawers, and flanked by split balusters face-nailed with brads. When removed the prospect section reveals vertical ?secret? compartments behind the front balusters. The top, bottom, and sides of the prospect section meet in dovetail joints; the uprights which enclose the drawers are set into grooves in the top and bottom, and the backboard is nailed with brads to the back of the uprights. On each side are four valanced open compartments with serpentine dividers over two short and one long small drawers with line-inlaid fronts. The interior sits on a cove-molded base face-nailed with brads. The drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, rounded-top sides in dovetail joints, having large tails reinforced with brads, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The single-board drawer bottoms are perpendicular to the fronts and nailed with brads into the rabbet in the drawer front and directly to the bottom of the backs and sides. The case back is feather-chamfered at the top and sides and consists of four horizontal boards (including one probably later, narrow one at the bottom) fixed with a variety of nails into rabbets in the sides and a single nail at the midpoint of a rabbet in the top. The case?s top rail is half-blind dovetailed to the case sides; the joints are partially covered by small triangular blocks. The horizontal drawer dividers below are also half-blind dovetailed to the case sides; the joints are partially covered by small triangular blocks. The horizontal drawer dividers below are also half-blind dovetailed, as well as attached with wood pins between lines of inlay, to the case sides. The vertical divider between the upper exterior small drawers is set into grooves in the bottom of the interior writing surface and the horizontal drawer divider below, behind which is a full-depth dust board. Drawer supports fixed with rosehead nails align with the long-drawer supports, and later drawer stops are glued into the rear corners of the case. The line inlaid and partially crossbanded exterior drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, slightly rounded-top sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins of varying configurations, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The full-width, multi-board drawer bottoms are perpendicular to the front and fixed with a variety of nails and later fasteners into rabbets in the front and directly to the bottom of the sides. Later runners are nailed on. The case has no bottom rail. Glued and nailed to the front and sides of the single-board case bottom is a flat, three-sided frame to which is fixed with face-nailed brads and wood filled fasteners a single-piece base molding. At each corner of the frame is a short, square-sectioned cabriole leg with square, shod pad feet, accompanied by knee brackets applied with glue and rosehead nails. The rear legs, which project beyond the backboard, are accompanied by horizontal chamfered glue blocks held on with rosehead nails. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, August 20, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

See also


Bibliography

American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1989), vol. 3, p. 818, no. P2251, ill.; vol. 7, p. 1942, no. P2251.
"Harry Arons advertisement," Antiques 87, no. 2 (February 1965): 148.
"Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 139, no. 3 (March 1991): 436.
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, 208, 234–239, no. 38, fig. 1–2, 4.