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Photo: Courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Bayou Bend Collection, Gift of Miss Ima Hogg, B.69.91
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Bureau table


Object number

RIF231

Maker

Maker: attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732–1809

Dimensions

87.63 x 99.695 x 55.88 cm (34 1/2 x 39 1/4 x 22 in.)

Date

1760–1780

Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); chestnut (interior framing, backboard, and bottom); yellow poplar (drawer sides, backs, and bottoms and drawer runners)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“A,” in graphite, on exterior back of long drawer; crisscrossed lines, in graphite, on interior back of proper-right upper drawer; “A,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-right middle drawer; "Eliza Wightman," stamped in ink, on exterior back and right side of proper-right middle drawer; illegible letter [E?], in graphite, on exterior back of proper-right lower drawer; “C,” in graphite, on exterior back of proper-right lower drawer; illegible graphite, on interior back of proper-right lower drawer; loop, in graphite, on underside of divider under proper-right middle drawer; “A” and “B,” in graphite, on tops of dividers under upper two proper-right drawers; “X,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left top drawer; illegible graphite, on interior bottom of proper-left middle drawer; “///,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left middle drawer; “J” or “I,” in graphite, on interior bottom of proper-left lower drawer; “D,” in graphite, on top of divider under proper-left middle drawer

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Probably made for Samuel Vernon (1711–1792), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his daughter, Mrs. Valentine Wightman (née Elizabeth Vernon, 1738–1812); probably by descent to her daughter, Mary Wightman (1773–1840); by descent to her cousin, William Vernon (1788–1867); by descent to his daughter, Mrs. Robert M. Oliphant (née Ann Vernon, born 1832); by descent to her daughter, Mrs. George Casper Kellogg (née Grace Oliphant, died 1950); sold by her estate to Israel Sack, Inc., New York, 1950; sold to Ima Hogg (1882–1975), Houston, 1950; gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1969

Associated names

Samuel Vernon
Elizabeth Vernon Wightman
Mary Wightman
William Vernon
Ann Vernon Oliphant
Grace Oliphant Kellogg
Israel Sack, Inc.
Ima Hogg

Construction

The true top is placed above a subtop consisting of two longitudinal strips dovetailed to the case sides, with dovetails on their upper surfaces that are exposed on the rear edge of the true top. The convex shells on the wide drawer are applied. The drawer runners are nailed to the sides of the case, and there is a full dustboard under the wide drawer. The case back is two horizontal boards joined with a lap joint that are nailed to the sub top, to rabbets in the case sides, and to the back of the case bottom. The feet are braced with three blocks shaped to follow the contours of the bracket and beveled on their inner edges, with the central vertical block applied last and standing above the horizontal blocks. The back bracket on the rear feet is serpentine-shaped and is butted against the side bracket, with a glue block added to secure the joint. On each drawer, the sides are finely dovetailed to the front and back; the bottoms are beveled on their front edge, let into a groove in the front, and nailed to the underside of the sides and back, with running strips applied. The tops of the drawer sides are flush with the drawer fronts and rounded; the tops of the drawer backs are flat.

Notes

Other bureau tables attributed to John Townsend include RIF 271, RIF 661, RIF1430, RIF1784, RIF1785, and RIF3607. A variation, also attributed to John Townsend, has a cupboard that is not recessed, see RIF210 and RIF 1431.

Bibliography

Wendy A. Cooper, In Praise of America: American Decorative Arts, 1650–1830, Fifty Years of Discovery since the 1929 Girl Scouts Loan Exhibition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), 177, 200, Pl. 34.
Wendy A. Cooper, "In Praise of America," Antiques 117, no. 3 (March 1980): 177, 200, pl. 34, ill.
David B. Warren, "Ima Hogg, Collector," Antiques 121, no. 1 (January 1982): 235, fig. 12.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 143, fig. 3.82, a, b.
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), 87-88, no. F140, ill.
Gerald W. R. Ward, "American's Contribution to Craftsmanship: The Exaltation and Interpretation of Newport Furniture," American Furniture (1999): 234, fig. 7.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005), 129, 131, no. 26, ill.