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Photo: Courtesy Gary R. Sullivan Antiques Inc., Sharon, Mass.; photo by Matthew J. Buckley
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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF5406

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

223.52 x 98.74 x 61.6 cm (88 x 38 7/8 x 24 1/4 in.)

Date

1740–1750, possibly 1742

Current location

Private collection

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (drawer linings, backboards, bottom board of desk, and blocks on top of desk under bookcase section); pine (top and bottom of bookcase, drawer bottoms of exterior drawers, interior desk drawers, and backing of drawer dividers); beech (top of desk); chestnut (glue blocks on feet)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

Possibly "1742," in chalk, on exterior back board of bookcase. Bookcase drawers (from top to bottom and left to right): “I” and “II,” in chalk, on exterior backs of upper drawers; "1" and "2," in chalk, on exterior backs of second row drawers; "1," in chalk, on back of proper-right third row drawer; "2," in chalk, proper left exterior side of proper-left third row drawer; "I," "II," "III," and "4," in chalk, on exterior backs of lower drawers; “X,” in chalk, on proper-left exterior side of drawer marked "II.” Interior desk drawers (from top to bottom and left to right): "1” through "4," incised on interior front corners and interior drawer backs drawers to proper-right of prospect [“1” on interior front corners of drawer 1 in graphite]; "L," in pen, on exterior of drawer backs; "I," in chalk, on front of exterior drawer bottom and "V [squiggle],” in chalk, on interior of proper-right side of drawer 4; "6” through "7" [drawer 5 could not be opened], incised on interior front corners and interior backs of prospect drawers; "I," in chalk, on front of exterior bottom of drawer 6; "8" through “11,” incised on interior front corners and interior backs of drawers to proper-left of prospect [in chalk on interior front corners of drawer 9]; "4," in chalk, on exterior of proper-right side of drawer 10; illegible graphite on interior bottom of drawer 11; possibly "Word,” in chalk, on proper-left exterior of one of the document drawers; "1” through “4,” incised on interior of backs and in graphite on interior front corners of valance drawers [in chalk on interior front corners of drawer 4]. Exterior desk drawers (from top to bottom): "1” through "4," in chalk, on interior drawer backs [drawers 2 and 3 also numbered in chalk on inside corners]

Style

Queen Anne

Provenance

Nicholas Carr (1732–1813), Jamestown, Rhode Island; by descent in the Carr family

Construction

The roof of the bookcase section formerly consisted of multiple transverse boards shaped to align with the arched bonnet, nailed and screwed to rabbets in the line-inlaid scrollboard, to the scalloped-top bonnet back-board and to blocking attached to the top board of the bookcase section. Only a few boards remain. The bonnet backboard is dovetailed to the top of the single-board bookcase sides. The one-piece crown molding is nailed with brads to the case sides and scrollboard. Below the scrollboard back and upper-case top, the upper-case back consists of three horizontal boards half-lapped to each other and fixed with rosehead nails to the rabbets in the case sides. The backboards are also attached, with rosehead nails in the joints between them, to partitions within the bookcase section. Prominent scribe lines were used to align the boards. The single-board upper-case bottom is dovetailed to the case sides. The bottom rail of the bookcase section, which contains two candleslides (one missing) is nailed to the case bottom with brads. The bookcase doors are constructed in the "breadboard" manner, having horizontal boards at top and bottom, into which are tenoned large vertical boards. Both doors are line inlaid. There is a false escutcheon on the outside face, as well as brass bolt latches at the top and bottom of the inside face, of the proper right door. The proper left door has a working escutcheon and a brass box lock, mortised and screwed into its main panel. The inlaid, thumb-molded (at the sides only) portions of the doors are ressaulted slightly; the hinges, now missing, were screwed into the recessed portions and the adjacent case sides. The bookcase interior consists of multiple fixed, scrolling upright partitions and shelves, containing a variety of flat-fronted, concave-blocked, and concave-blocked and shell-carved small drawers, as well as a pair of inlaid and fluted upright "pilaster drawers," whose capitals are missing. The pilaster drawers have multiple-board sides nailed with brads to the drawer fronts and backs. The small-drawer fronts meet their sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, thick-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The drawer sides are quite shy of the fronts and are arch-topped. The tops of the drawer backs are flat, and chamfered in back. The flat drawer bottoms are parallel to the fronts, and glued into rabbets in the adjacent members above. The single-board top of the desk section is dovetailed to the single-board case sides. Attached to the desk section top is a single-piece molding inside which the bookcase section rests, on thin rectangular blocks. The desk backboard consists of two half-lapped horizontal boards, fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the case top and sides, and to the case bottom and interior partitions. The two butt-jointed boards of the case bottom are dovetailed to the case sides. The inlaid and thumb-molded lid has been repaired where earlier hinges have broken out. It is assembled in the "breadboard" manner, with two narrow upright boards, into which is tenoned a large horizontal board, which joints are visible where the lid meets the case. The interior contains a concave-blocked and shell-carved prospect door, flanked by beaded stiles, and by two pairs of quarter-spherically concave blocked and beaded small drawers, centering scalloped partitions above convex-blocked drawers, in turn flanked by banks of concave-blocked drawers, the upper ones shell-carved, all above a molded base. The drawers are constructed similarly to those in the bookcase section, with some variation in dovetail pin size and configuration throughout. The backs of the quarter-spherically concave-blocked drawer fronts are chamfered just below the dovetail joints. The tops of the convex-blocked drawer fronts have a deep chamfer, which tapers toward the sides. In the case below are drawer dividers which meet the case sides in blind joints on the proper left. On the proper right, the blind joints are now revealed to be half-blind, half-dovetail joints. The bottom and top rails and the rails which surround the half-height lopers meet their neighboring members in blind joints. Each graduated, lipped, thumb-molded and line-inlaid long drawer has full-depth drawer supports with chamfered ends, (some replaced), fixed to the case sides with brads. The drawer fronts are slightly proud of their sides, which have very slightly chamfered tops. They meet in dovetail joints, having finely cut, thick-necked half-pins, with half-pins above and pins with grooves below. Parallel to the drawer fronts, the two-board drawer bottoms are chamfered at the front, where they fit into the grooves in the front, and at the sides, where they are full-width, having runners applied with brads. They are also nailed with brads to the drawer backs, which have flat tops, chamfered in back. The front feet consist of horizontal blocks, (one replaced), mitered together and screwed into the base molding. Prominent scribe lines lay out the location of the blocking and bracket faces. The proper right rear foot (the proper left one has been replaced) is missing its blocking altogether, though it bears shadows indicating that its configuration was similar to that of the front feet, but for the simple, straight-side agee bracket in the back, (which bears prominent scribe lines), set into a groove in the side-facing agee bracket. Examined by P.E. Kane, D.A. Carr, J.N. Johnson and W.S. Braznell, July 8, 2011; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd

See also