image of object
From: Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), plate 5
Click the image to enlarge

Bureau table


Object number

RIF1784

Maker

Maker John Townsend, American, 1732–1809

Dimensions

86.36 x 93.98 cm (34 x 37 in.)

Date

1769

Current location

Private collection

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (large drawer linings); chestnut ( small drawer sides and backs, side of cabinet, board below large drawer, backing for drawer dividers, battens below top, and bottom board)

Marks

"Newport, Rhode Island / Made by [torn] Townsend / 1769," in ink, on paper label glued to center of interior of large drawer; "M [ade?] / B[y?] [John Tow?] nsend," in graphite, on dust board below large drawer

Inscriptions

"A," in graphite, on exterior back of large drawer; "A," in graphite twice, on exterior back of proper right topmost drawer; "D," in graphite, on exterior back of proper left topmost drawer; traces of graphite on other exterior backs of small drawers, possibly letters; illegible graphic on dustboard under large drawer

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Rebecca Shaw (died 1900), Wickford, Rhode Island; sold by her estate to Harry Harkness Flagler, Millbrook, New York, 1901. Private collection, before 1984

Associated names

Miss Rebecca Shaw
Harry Harkness Flagler Esq.

Construction

The rectangular oblong top is molded on its front and side edges and square at its back edge, where it slightly overhangs the case. Below it sits a single-piece beaded cove molding, the rear end of which is flush with the back edge of the case sides. The proper left case side contains two boards; the proper right is a single board. At the back edge of the top are two wood-filled, dovetail-shaped keyways which secure it to longitudinal battens dovetailed to the case sides. Later, large transverse blocks, two at each side, occupy the joint between case top and sides, and are glued to the sides and screwed into the underside of the top, further securing the top to the case. They also prevent the frieze drawer from tipping forward when it is pulled out. A transverse batten at the midpoint of the case is screwed and half-lapped to the rear longitudinal batten. It contains a countersunk screw on its underside, halfway between the front and back of the case. The two-board case bottom is half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. The case back is replaced. The top rail, which contains multiple countersunk screws in its underside, has integral cockbeading and is half-blind dovetailed to the case sides, as are the drawer dividers and bottom rail below. The cockbeading at the case sides is applied. The divider under the frieze drawer is backed up by a full-depth dust board; its cockbeading continues across its front bottom edge over the central recessed section. The frieze-drawer front is decorated with a central concave-carved shell and two flanking applied shells. It meets its drawer sides, which have been extensively restored, in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. Underneath are two banks of convex-blocked small drawers, whose fronts meet their extensively restored drawer sides in dovetail joints with short, thick-necked pins, with half-pins above and below. Recessed between the bands of drawers is a shell-carved, concave-blocked door, with beaded surround, opening to a single fixed shelf. The blocking behind the ogee bracket feet has been replaced. Examined by P. E. Kane and W. S. Braznell, January 10, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Notes

Other bureau tables attributed to John Townsend include RIF 231, RIF 271, RIF 661, RIF1430, RIF1785, and RIF3607. A variation, also attributed to John Townsend, has a cupboard that is not recessed, see RIF210 and RIF 1431.

Bibliography

Frances Clary Morse, Furniture of the Olden Time (New York: MacMillan Company, 1908), 122, illus. 82.
Frances Clary Morse, Furniture of the Olden Time (New York: MacMillan Company, 1926), 136–138, illus. 106.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 100, Pl. 5, fig. 3.4, 3.59, 3.59a.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005), 4–5, 11n7, fig. 2.