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Photo: Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery, Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, 1930.2119
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Slant-front desk


Object number

RIF2513

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

107.95 x 96.52 x 54.61 cm (42 1/2 x 38 x 21 1/2 in.)

Date

1690–1730

Current location

Yale University Art Gallery

Geography

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

Medium

Maple (sides and top, base molding); maple and walnut veneer; cherry (desk interior dividers, well cover, fall board); pine (back boards, bottom sides, and backs of small exterior drawers, bottoms of large exterior drawers, bottom board, backing for base molding, supports for lowest drawer); yellow poplar (linings of interior desk drawers, board under desk interior, fronts of small exterior drawers, sides, backs, and front of large exterior drawers)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

Markings, in chalk, at interior center of exterior drawer backs, may be letters

Style

William and Mary

Provenance

Dwight M. Prouty, Boston, Massachusetts. Wanamaker's, New York, before 1930; sold to Francis P. Garvan (1875–1937), New York; given to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1930

Associated names

Dwight M. Prouty
Wanamaker's
Francis P. Garvan

Construction

The single-board top has a half-round bead applied with brads to its perimeter. The bead continues down the diagonal and vertical front edges of the case sides, where it is joined by horizontal and vertical beads fronting the drawer dividers. The hinged lid consists of a large, horizontal board flanked by two narrow, vertical boards, the outside face of which is elaborately veneered. In the center of the interior is a prospect section, at the top of which is a valanced shallow drawer held in place by a horizontal dovetail strip of wood set in a keyway cut into the underside of the top. When the shallow drawer is removed, a secret drawer at the back of the prospect section is revealed. The shallow drawer front is slightly proud of its flat-topped drawer sides, which it meets in a dovetail joint. Its single-board drawer bottom is parallel to the front. There are triangular blocks, probably later, in the rear corners of the drawers. A compartment below is divided by a scalloped (removable) divider, above a small drawer. The prospect area is flanked by open compartments over drawers, flanked in turn by scalloped uprights and ressaulted open compartments and drawers. The small drawers of the interior have veneered fronts, which meet their flush, round-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints, having large, finely cut pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The drawer sides and backs are all full height; the drawer bottoms, perpendicular to the fronts, are glued and nailed into rabbets at their bottoms. The recessed portion of the interior sits upon a molded base behind a well with a sliding cover, surrounded by a half-round bead. The case below contains a top rail above a veneered panel enclosing the well. Within the case are drawer supports nailed to the case sides with brads. The bottom of the stile which separates the two short drawers is visible through the bottom of the dust board below. The case back consists of four horizontal boards half-lapped together – the upper one, chamfered on the top and sides, where it is nailed with brads into rabbets; two lower ones, flat, and nailed with brads in rabbets in the sides; and a later, narrow, lowest board. The single-board case bottom is dovetailed to the case sides. Some pins are reinforced with later nails. The two small and two long drawers within the case are each faced with burl veneers and crossbanding to simulate two drawers. They meet their flush, flat-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints having large, thick-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The single-board drawer bottoms are chamfered at the front and sides, parallel to the fronts, fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the drawer fronts, and with rosehead nails directly to the bottoms of the drawer backs. The drawer runners conceal the method of attachment of drawer bottom to the drawer side. A base molding is applied with brads to, and flush with, the front and sides of the case bottom. The turned base feet are probably modern replacements. Examined by P. E. Kane, J. S. Gordon, J. N. Johnson, L. E. Brouwer, E. Litke, T. B. Lloyd; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

Walter A. Dyer, "The American Scrutoire-Desk: Primitive - Queen Anne," Fine Arts 18, no. 5 (April 1932): 31, ill.
Thomas H. Ormsbee, The Story of American Furniture (New York: MacMillan Company, 1934), 131, fig. 55.
R. W. Symonds and Thomas H. Ormsbee, Antique Furniture of the Walnut Period (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1947), 22, pl. LXI, ill.
Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1988), 464–465, no. 19.
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), 162–164, no. 12, fig. 2.