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Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's, New York
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Slant-front desk


Object number

RIF2390

Maker

Maker attributed John Townsend, American, 1732–1809

Dimensions

105.41 x 99.06 x 56.896cm (41 1/2 x 39 x 22 3/8in.)

Date

1754–1788

Current location

Unknown

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (linings of interior drawers, backing for drawer dividers, glue blocks reinforcing the joint of the bottom rail and case bottom); chestnut (linings of exterior drawers, backboards, vertical brace, glue blocks on feet, rear feet brackets); white pine (bottom board)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"A", "B", "C", and "D," in graphite, on interior backs of exterior drawers; "A," "B," and "C," in graphite, on drawer dividers; on the "C" drawer divider in graphite "22 Decr [latter superscript] monday"; double conjoined "O," in graphite on underside of all drawers; drawing of a smiling fish, in graphite, on an interior drawer bottom; "A," "B," "C," and "D," in graphite, on exterior of backboards from top to bottom; "A," in graphite, on interior back of each of proper-right interior drawers; "B" and "D," in graphite, on interior back of two widest interior drawers flanking the prospect door; "B," in graphite, on interior back of two upper proper-left interior drawers; "E," in graphite, on interior back of lowest proper-left interior drawer. "Cab," in graphite, on interior back of each prospect drawer; "D," E," and "F," in graphite, on front and interior bottom of proper-left valance drawers; "Began 22 December," in graphite, on underside of bottom board along with other illegible graphite; "JE[?]," conjoined, in graphite, on back of an exterior drawer

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

John Howland Ricketson III (1902–1986), Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts; Northeast Auctions, Hampton, New Hampshire (sale held in Manchester, New Hampshire), May 29, 1993, lot 80. Susan and Mark Laracy, New York; consigned to Sotheby's, New York, January 20, 2007, lot 224

Associated names

John Howland Ricketson III
Northeast Auctions
Mark Laracy
Susan Laracy
Sotheby's
Leigh Keno American Antiques

Construction

The case top is dovetailed to the one-piece case sides. The battens on the slant lid have open tenons on either end; three hinges fasten the slant-lid to the desk interior. On the interior drawers, half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer fronts to the drawers sides with half pins at the top and bottom; the top edges of the drawer sides are slightly rounded and are almost as high as the drawer fronts; the kerf marks are short and of average thickness. On the valance drawers, a single half-blind dovetail fastens the drawer front to the drawer sides. On all the interior drawers, the bottoms are glued to rabbets in the fronts, sides, and back. Half-blind dovetails fasten the top rail and the drawer dividers to the case sides; the bottom rail fits in a groove in the case side. Half-blind dovetails fasten the muntins flanking the lopers to the top rail above and the drawer divider below. The lopers are full height and have quarter-round molded edges. The drawer supports are nailed to the case sides. On the exterior drawers, half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer sides to the front and back. On the lowest drawer, there is a half pin at the top and bottom and five full dovetails between them. The grain of the drawer bottom runs from front to back; the bottom boards are chamfered to fit in grooves in the front and sides; glue blocks reinforce the joint of the bottom and the sides; brads fasten the bottom to the underside of the back. The brasses appear to be original and the interior of the drawer fronts is not gouge to accommodate the hardware. The tops of the drawer sides are slightly rounded and are almost flush with the drawer fronts; the top edges of the drawer backs are slightly chamfered. The four horizontal backboards are fastened to rabbets in the case top and sides and to the back edge of the bottom board with brads. A vertical brace that pierces the bottom board reinforces the backboards; it is secured with nails from the back. Nails securing the sides of the prospect cabinet are visible from the back. The two-piece bottom board is dovetailed to the case sides; four rectangular glue blocks secure the joint of the bottom board and the bottom rail on the interior below the lowest drawer. The base moldings are attached to the sides of the case with nails that have wooden caps. The feet are reinforced with vertical blocks that rest on horizontal blocks mitered at the corners. The back feet have rear brackets with an ogee-shaped inner surfaces; the brackets fit in grooves in the sides of the rear feet. The sides of the rear feet extend beyond the back of the case. Examined by P. E. Kane, P. T. Cooper, and Mia Taradash, January 17, 2007.

Notes

The inscription "22 Decr [latter superscript] monday" on one of the drawer dividers could have been written in the following years: 1754, 1760, 1766, 1777, 1783, or 1788. The feet are replaced. Source: Erik Gronning and Amy Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition," American Furniture (2013): 21, fig. 44.

Bibliography

Northeast Auctions, Hampton, N.H., The Collection of John Howland Ricketson III, sale cat. (May 29, 1993), lot 80, ill.
Sotheby's, New York, The Collection of Susan and Mark Laracy, sale cat. (January 20, 2007), 255–59, lot 224, ill.