image of object
Photo: Courtesy Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund, 2001.7; photo by Erik Gould
Click the image to enlarge

Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker John Carlile, Jr., American, 1762–1832, active 1781–1830


Desk: 43 1/2 x 42 1/2 x 22 1/2 in. (110.49 x 107.95 x 57.15 cm) Desk and bookcase: 95 1/2 x 42 1/2 x 22 1/2 in. (242.57 x 107.95 x 57.15 cm)


1785 (desk); 1795–1810 (bookcase)

Current location

Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design


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


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (bottoms of exterior drawers and backboards); pine (sides and backs of exterior drawers, backing of dividers for exterior drawers, drawer supports, blocks at lower front rail, board below desk interior, linings of interior drawers, glue blocks of feet, and brackets of rear feet)


"Providence, August 6th 1785 / John Carlisle, Jnr of / Said towne / joyner," in ink, on exterior back of lower prospect drawer of desk interior


“X,” in graphite, on exterior backs of exterior drawers; “X,” on some interior and exterior sides and backs of some of interior drawers; faint numbers [probably original], in graphite, on some interior sides, backs, and fronts of some interior drawers; numbers [later], in graphite, on some exterior surfaces of some interior drawers; "N 3 Top," "N 2 M," "N 1 B," in graphite, on prospect drawers [from top to bottom]; “3,” “2,” and “1” [with later numbers written over them in reverse order], in graphite, on dividers under prospect drawers [from top to bottom]




Harry LeBreton Gray (1875–1936), Rochester, New York. Andrew D. Wolfe (1922–1999), Pittsford, New York, by 1982; consigned by his estate to Sotheby's, New York, January 20, 2001, lot 135; sold to the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Associated names

Harry LeBreton Gray
Andrew D. Wolfe


The four horizontal backboards are nailed to rabbets in the top and sides and to the back edge of the bottom board. The one-piece bottom board is dovetailed to the case sides. The grain of the bottoms of the exterior drawers runs from side to side; the lowest drawer has a half pin at the top of the drawer front, a half pin at the bottom and three full dovetails between them. The top edges of the exterior drawer sides are rounded and are slightly lower than the drawer fronts. Half-blind dovetails fasten the front of the interior drawers to the drawer sides with a half pin at the top, a half pin at the bottom and two full dovetails in between. The lowest interior drawers flanking the prospect door are one-piece with the lowest of the side tiers of drawers. The vertical blocks for the feet rest against the case bottom and the horizontal blocks abut them. The inner faces of the brackets on the rear feet are angled. Observations by P. E. Kane from photographs in the Ralph T. Carpenter, Jr., Archives, Winterthur Library.


Joseph K. Ott, "Lesser-Known Rhode Island Cabinetmakers: The Carliles, Holmes Weaver, Judson Blake, the Rawsons, and Thomas Davenport," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 1157, fig. 2–2a.
Wendy A. Cooper and Tara L. Gleason, "A Different Rhode Island Block-and-Shell Story: Providence Provenances and Pitch-Pediments," American Furniture (1999): 166, 200–2001, fig. 4, 27, 46, 58.
Sotheby's, New York, Important American Furniture and Folk Art from the Estate of Andrew D. Wolfe, sale cat. (January 20, 2001), 68–69, lot 135, ill.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Folk Art, and Prints Including American Folk Art from the Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia, sale cat. (October 3, 2007), fig. 2.
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), 445, fig. 2.