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Side chairs, pair


Object number

RIF380

Maker

Maker attributed John Townsend, American, 1732–1809

Dimensions

97.155 x 55.88 x 40.64 cm (38 1/4 x 22 x 16 in.)

Date

1750–1775

Current location

Newport Restoration Foundation, Rhode Island

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); chestnut (glue blocks); pine (glue blocks); maple (rear seat rail and slip seat frame)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"V," incised on front rail rabbet of pictured chair; "XI," incised on slip seat frame of pictured chair; “Ma[?],” in graphite, on the rear seat rail of pictured chair; "II," incised on front rail rabbet and slip seat frame of other chair in pair

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

John Townsend (1732–1809), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his daughter, Mrs. Thomas Brinley (née Mary Townsend, 1769–1856), Newport, Rhode Island, 1809; by descent to her nephew and heir, Christopher Townsend (died 1881), Newport, Rhode Island, 1856; by descent to his sister, Ellen F. Townsend (1809–1887), Newport, Rhode Island, 1881; bequeathed to her friend, William P. Sheffield (1819–1907), Newport, Rhode Island, 1886; by descent to his son, William P. Sheffield (1857–1919), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his son, William P. Sheffield, Jr., 1919; by descent to his sister, Mrs. Charles Renn (née Elizabeth Sheffield), Newport, Rhode Island, after 1937 but by 1965. Doris Duke (1912–1993), Newport; bequeathed to the Newport Restoration Foundation, Rhode Island, 1993

Associated names

John Townsend
Mary Townsend Brinley
Christopher Townsend
Ellen F. Townsend
William P. Sheffield
William P. Sheffield
William P. Sheffield, Jr.
Elizabeth S. Renn
Doris Duke

Construction

Each chair has a serpentine, flat-fronted crest rail centering an arched, recessed panel with incised dot-and-line decoration and ending in molded, scrolling, flaring ears. Portions of the back of the crest are flat, chamfered, or rounded. The flat-front, round-backed stiles below are tenoned into it, with one wood pin per joint. Also tenoned into the underside of the crest and into the molded, four-sided shoe below is a single-piece scrolling openwork splat. The shoe is attached by brads to the rear seat rail, which it does not overhang. The rear legs, continuous with the stiles, are square, and rake rearward and inward, kicking slightly rearward again below the side stretchers. The rear seat rail is tenoned into the rear legs with one wood pin per leg; the turned rear stretcher is doweled into them. The flat-arch-skirted side seat rails are tenoned into them, with two wood pins per rear leg, and into the round-fronted blocks above the front legs, with one wood pin per leg. The front seat rail, also flat-arch skirted, is tenoned into the front legs with one wood pin per leg. The blocked and turned side stretchers are tenoned and single-wood-pinned to the rear legs, and tenoned into the front legs with single wood pins visible only on the inside of the legs. The turned medial stretchers are doweled into the side stretchers. The seat rails are rabbeted. In the rear corners are large triangular blocks which extend below the rear seat rail, and are fixed to the rear and side rails with rosehead nails. Each front corner has two blocks, nailed with brads to their respective rails and to the block atop the front legs. The front cabriole legs have rounded knees and carved knee brackets attached with glue and brads. The ankles are deeply carved; the prominent claws and talons are grasping elongated ball feet. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, March 27, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

Homer Eaton Keyes, "Two Branches of the Newport Townsends," Antiques 31, no. 6 (June 1937): 308, fig. 3.
Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., "Discoveries in Newport Furniture and Silver," Antiques 68, no. 1 (July 1955): 44, fig. 1.
Ruth Davidson, "Rhode Island Furniture," Antiques 87, no. 4 (April 1965): 392, 410.
Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 14–15, no. 13, ill.
John T. Kirk, American Chairs: Queen Anne and Chippendale (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), 137, fig. 176.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 66, 74, 188, figs. 2.3, 3.106–3.106a.
Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye, New England Furniture: The Colonial Era (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984), 37, fig. I-43.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005), 96–97, no. 11, ill.
Morrison H. Heckscher, "Newport and the Townsend Inheritance," Antiques 167, no. 5 (May 2005): 100, ill.
Christie's New York, New York, Important American Furniture, Outsider, and Folk Art, sale cat. (September 22, 2014), 34, fig. 3.
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), 348n4.