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Photo: Courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Bayou Bend Collection, Gift of Miss Ima Hogg, B.69.22
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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF230

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

99 x 42 1/4 x 26 1/2 in. (251.461 x 107.315 x 67.31 cm)

Date

1760–1790

Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); cedrela (three bookcase drawers' bottoms); chestnut (front frame of the desk base, bottom board of bookcase, and backing for the drawer dividers); poplar [aspen or cottonwood] (drawers sides and backs and board underneath the desk's interior compartment); red cedar (bookcase drawers, sides and backs, and interior writing section); eastern white pine (vertical foot blocks, exterior drawer bottoms, top drawer supports, and bonnet boards); white oak (middle drawer supports)

Inscriptions

“L” and “R” [probably later], in graphite, on exterior bottoms of proper-right and proper-left interior bookcase drawers; faint letter [“A”?], in graphite, on exterior back of top exterior desk drawer; “C,” in graphite, on exterior back of bottom exterior desk drawer; “B” and “C,” in graphite, on dividers under lower two exterior desk drawers; “1,” in graphite, on exterior back and interior front and sides [at front corners] of top proper-right interior drawer; “1,” in graphite, on interior front and sides [at front corners] of middle proper-right interior drawer; “2,” in graphite, on interior front and sides [at front corners] of proper-right interior long drawer; “3,” in graphite, on interior front and sides [at front corners], of upper prospect drawer; “2,” in graphite, on interior sides [at front corners] of middle prospect drawer; “2,” in graphite, on exterior back and interior front and sides [at front corners] of lower prospect drawer; “4,” in graphite, on exterior back and interior front and sides [at front corners] of proper-left long drawer; “3,” in graphite, on interior front and sides [at front corners] of proper-left upper interior desk drawer; “2,” in graphite [with incised “3” over it], on exterior back of top proper-left interior desk drawer; “3,” in graphite, on interior front and proper-right interior side [at front corner] of middle proper-left interior desk drawer; “5,” in graphite, on interior front and sides [at front corners] of bottom proper-left interior desk drawer; “1” through “6,” in graphite, on exterior backs and interior sides [at front corners] of valance drawers [from proper-left to proper-right]; the valance drawers [except number “6”] have notches carved into the tops of their fronts that correspond in number to their graphite numbers

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Frank Partridge, London, after 1930. Charles F. Montgomery (1910–1978), for the Winterthur Museum, Delaware. Israel Sack, Inc., New York. John S. Walton, Inc., New York; sold to Ima Hogg (1882–1975), Houston; bequeathed to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1969

Associated names

Frank Partridge
Charles F. Montgomery
Israel Sack, Inc.
John S. Walton, Inc.
Ima Hogg

Construction

BOOKCASE: The two horizontal backboards are fasten to rabbets in the case sides. the top of the bookcase, and in the base of the bookcase. The back edge of the top of the bookcase is visible between the bookcase back and the backboard enclosing the pediment. The bonnet boards are nailed to the pediment backboard and to the facing board at the front of the pediment. The quarter columns are in three pieces--the base, the capital, and the shaft with four flutes. The opening around the bookcase front is finished with a liner mitred at the corners. The hinges from the doors to the case sides have a plate on the door side that is l-shaped. On the rear of the bookcase doors the openings behind the blocked panels are finished with applied moldings at the edges. The dividers inside the bookcase are let into grooves in the case sides. The one-piece side cornice moldings are glued and nailed to the sides. The junction of the scrolled front cornice moldings and the moldings surrounding the circular openings on the front of the pediment continues to the terminus of the moldings flanking the center finial. The sides of the bookcase are dovetailed to the bottom and top board. On the bottom board there are half keys at the back and before the block for the quarter column; between the half keys are five full dovetails. The drawers in the bookcase have sides with rounded top edges nearly flush with the top of the drawers; the bottoms run from side to side and are glued to rabbets in all four drawer sides. Half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer fronts to the drawer sides with half keys at the top and bottom; the kerf marks are short and of average thickness. DESK: The sides are dovetailed to the top and bottom board. Two blocks fastened with rosehead nails to the two-piece desk top at the ends near the sides support the bookcase. The slant-lid is fasten to the writing surface with three hinges; the outer hinges are fastened with three screws on each plate; the center hinge has four screws on each plate. The batten ends of the slant-front have very narrow open tenons near the hinges. The writing surface has a sliding well cover giving access to the top exterior drawer. The boards the cover slides in are supported by a board that spans the back of the case and is tenoned into the sides and nailed to the backboards. Half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer fronts to the drawer sides on the interior drawers. The top edges of the drawer sides are rounded and are slightly lower than the drawer fronts. The drawer supports for the exterior drawers are nailed to the case sides. Half-blind dovetails fasten the top rail and the drawer dividers to the case sides; the drawer dividers have beaded edges and are backed with chestnut. The bottom rail also fastens to the case sides with half-blind dovetails and at the back it overhangs the case bottom board. The short-height loper is housed in a two part construction behind the ends of the top drawer. The loper rest on a block alongside a block that runs from the drawer divider below to the rail above. The decorative front of the loper is attached to the working extension with a sliding dovetail. With the exception of the top exterior drawer, half-blind dovetails attach the drawer fronts to the drawer sides with half keys at the top and bottom. The grain of the bottoms runs from front to back; the bottoms fit in groves in the front and sides and are fastened to the underside of the back with rosehead nails; running strips are added to the edges of the sides. The interior surface of the drawer fronts is flat; an addition piece glued at the center reinforces the thinness of the board behind the concave section. On the base moldings are nailed between the side feet. To reinforce the feet horizontal glue blocks rest on the case bottom and vertical glue blocks in turn rest on them. The rear brackets on the back feet have ogee-shaped inner faces; they fit in slots in the sides of the back feet. When this desk and bookcase was purchased for Winterthur, the feet, base moldings, and pediment plaques were carved; this carving was subsequently removed. Examined by P. E. Kane, March 2004.

Notes

This example is one of nine Rhode Island blockfront desk and bookcases onamented with six shells.

See also


Bibliography

Helen Comstock, American Furniture: Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Century Styles (New York: Viking Press, 1962), 121, 127, 166, fig. 330.
David B. Warren, "American Decorative Arts in Texas: The Bayou Bend Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston," Antiques 90, no. 6 (December 1966): 796.
David B. Warren, Bayou Bend: American Furniture, Paintings, and Silver from the Bayou Bend Collection (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1975), 69, no. 135, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 320–321, fig. 8.13, 8.13a–c.
David Linley, Extraordinary Furniture (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996), 64–65.
David B. Warren et al., American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1998), 73–75, no. F123, ill.
Brock Jobe, "The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon," American Furniture (2001): 135–136, 146, fig. 22–24, 48.
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), 301n1, 313n1.