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Photo: Courtesy Rhode Island Furniture Archive
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Slant-front desk


Object number

RIF215

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

Unknown

Date

1740–1760

Current location

Private collection

Geography

Possibly made in Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)

Medium

Mahogany (primary); white pine (backboards and bottom board); chestnut (blocks on some feet)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"E. A. HARRIS / AMHERST, MASS.," stamped, in red ink in one drawer; illegible script, in red ink, on back of upper secret drawer; columns of numbers, in chalk, underside of upper secret drawer

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

E. A. Harris, Amherst, Massachusetts

Associated names

E. A. Harris

Construction

The single-board top is joined to the sides by a half-blind dovetail joint, having large, thick-necked finely cut pins, with a half-pin in front and a half-pin and rabbet at the rear. The sloping edges of the two-board sides are double-beaded, as are the drawer dividers and top rail of the case. The hinged top is comprised of three boards, assembled in the "breadboard" manner, consisting of two vertical boards at either end into which is tenoned a large horizontal board. A fourth board had been added where the hinges were broken out. The top swings on two sets of (later) brass hinges, each leaf thrice-screwed, and rests on half-height lopers. The desk interior is elaborate, with a sliding panel below, with double-beaded surround, opening to a well above the drawers below. The prospect portion of the interior consists of a valanced "secret" drawer with a transverse molded batten connecting it by dovetail joints and rosehead nails to a hidden compartment behind. Below the valanced drawer is an upright divider attached by dovetail joint to another secret compartment. Below there is a plain small drawer, flanked by longer plain drawers, below valanced compartments. Flanking these are stepped down open compartments with shaped uprights and upper platforms above simple straight-front platforms and small, deeper drawers. The central portion of the interior is raised somewhat to allow the well lid to slide below it. The interior drawer fronts have dovetail joints with finely cut thick-necked dovetails with half-pins above and below. The secret compartments have thick, square-topped drawer sides and backs, flush with the drawer front, glued together. The small drawers have thin, arched-topped drawer sides and backs just shy of the drawer fronts. The case contains supports for the upper drawers, including medial support (with possibly later drawer guide) behind the double-beaded drawer divider, and a horizontal brace between the drawer supports attached to the backboard. The two lower drawers have drawer supports nailed with brads to the case sides and drawer stops glued to the inside case corners. The drawer dividers join the case sides in a double-beaded V joint. There is no bottom rail. The molded base is nailed to and flush with the case bottom, which is dovetailed to the case sides. The drawer fronts in the case have dovetail joints, with a single large pin, half-pin above and half-pin with rabbet below, drawer sides with arched tops flush with the front, and applied runners. The case back consists of multiple horizontal boards joined by half-laps and nailed in a rabbet to the case sides with rosehead nails. Behind the front straight bracket feet are full-height shaped vertical glue blocks, flanked by horizontal glue blocks. The faces of the front feet are mitered together, nailed, and plugged. The vertical glue block and simple incurvate back brackets of the rear legs fit into a groove in the outside face of the rear feet. Notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd from photographs supplied by the owner.

Bibliography

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), 200n1.