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Photo: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 15.21.2
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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF381

Maker

Maker Unknown
Maker formerly attributed John Goddard, 1723/24–1785

Dimensions

Height: 251.778cm (99 1/8in.); Height, writing surface: 80.01cm (31 1/2in.); Width, feet: 112.078cm (44 1/8in.); Width, lower case: 105.728cm (41 5/8in.); Width, upper case: 100.013cm (39 3/8in.); Depth, feet: 65.405cm (25 3/4in.); Depth, lower case: 60.325cm (23 3/4in.); Depth, upper case: 31.115cm (12 1/4in.)

Date

1760–1790

Current location

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); mahogany (sides and backs of small drawers); cedar (bottoms of interior desk drawers); chestnut (drawer divider backings for exterior drawers, blocks to insides of lopers, two lower backboards of desk, and bottom board of desk); yellow poplar (sides of exterior drawers, board under desk interior, horizontal board across case back supporting well supports, backboards of bookcase and pediment, top boards of pediment, top of desk, and top back board of desk); white pine (bottoms of exterior drawers, brackets of rear feet, and horizontal and vertical blocks of feet); yellow pine (bottom board of bookcase)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“2” or “B,” in chalk, on exterior back of middle exterior drawer; illegible chalk on exterior back of lower exterior drawer; “1,” in graphite, on interior sides [at front corners] and exterior back of proper-right shell drawer; “3,” in graphite, on interior sides [at front corners] and exterior back of one of smaller interior desk drawers; “/,” in graphite, on interior sides [at front corners] of some of interior desk drawers; “3,” in graphite, on proper-left interior side [at front corner] of one of valance drawers; “5” with “4” written over it, in graphite, on interior proper-right side [at front corner] of one of valance drawers; “5,” in graphite, on interior sides [at front corners] of one of valance drawers; “5” through “7” [original?], in graphite, on exterior bottoms of cabinet drawers; “2,” in graphite, on exterior back of bottom cabinet drawer; compass work and possible illegible graphite on interior bottom board of desk; “ZH,” carved on outer side of proper-left loper; “AM,” carved on top surface of proper-left loper; “HF [early 20th century]” in chalk, on exterior back of bookcase; “Moved by / Thos Kernant [?] / June 6 1906,” in graphite, on exterior top of desk; illegible graphite [possible letter] and illegible chalk, on exterior top of desk; “P,” in ink of a paper tab on proper-left upper bookcase pigeon hole; “Lower Part,” in graphite, on exterior of upper backboard of desk

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Richard A. Canfield (died 1915), New York; sold by his estate to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1915

Associated names

Richard A. Canfield

Construction

On the bookcase unit: The urns of the three-part finials are fluted, the central one cut away at its juncture with the facing board, the fluting on the side ones not completed in back. The top third of the entirely enclosed bonnet is cut away at a forty-five-degree angle at the back, undoubtedly to accommodate the cornice of the room for which the secretary was intended. The two shaped and blocked panels within the pediment area are applied, as are the sides and the framing moldings of the circular openings above them. The central door of the unit is hinged to the door on the left. The recessed block-and-shell on the central door is cut from a single board with a plain flat back; on the flanking doors, the projecting blocks and shells, two separate pieces, are applied. When closed and locked, the three doors are secured inside two mahogany vertical partitions that subdivide the interior space. The doors open to reveal between the partitions a symmetrical, fixed arrangement of cubbyholes--four tiers in the middle and five tiers on the sides--whose thing mahogany vertical dividers are scalloped. The back of the unit is made up of three vertical boards. On the desk unit: The recessed middle shell of the hinged slant top is cut from the solid; the flanking projecting shells and blockings are separate applied pieces. Behind the slant top, blocked-out drawers beneath triple cubbyholes topped by pencil drawers alternate with the blocked-in shell-carved prospect door and drawers at either end. Behind the prospect door, which is backed with a thin mahogany board, are three graduated, recessed-blocked drawers. In the writing surface, a well with a sliding cover opens into the uppermost of the large drawers. There are no dust boards. Between the drawers, beaded rails reinforced behind with chestnut strips are dovetailed to the desk's sides; the sides have applied beading at the drawer openings. On the drawers, the solid fronts are blocked inside and out, the interior central part built up with an applied board; the top drawer's upper corners are cut out to receive the lopers; the bottom drawer slides on thick strips nailed to the two boards of the desk bottom. The back of the unit consists of three horizontal boards. Each bracket foot is reinforced with two horizontal glue blocks abutting a central, vertical one. Source: Morrison H. Heckscher, American Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol.II, Late Colonial Period: The Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles (New York: Random House, 1985), 284.

Notes

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

See also


Bibliography

Henry W. Kent and Florence N. Levy, The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909), 68, no. 170, ill.
Walter A. Dyer, "John Goddard and His Block Fronts," Antiques 1, no. 5 (May 1922): 205, fig. 8–9.
R. T. Haines Halsey and Charles O. Cornelius, A Handbook of the American Wing, 1st (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1924), 114–115, 133, fig. 59.
R. T. Haines Halsey and Charles O. Cornelius, A Handbook of the American Wing, 2nd (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1925), 114–115,133, fig. 59.
R. T. Haines Halsey and Charles O. Cornelius, A Handbook of the American Wing, 3rd (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1926), 114–115, 133, fig. 59.
Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926), vol. 1, pp. 251, 253, fig. 275.
Malcolm A. Norton, "Three Block-Front Secretaries," Antiques 11, no. 3 (March 1927): 192, fig. 1.
Walter A. Dyer, "Three Early American Cabinet Makers," Antiquarian 8 (April 1927): 31, 33, ill.
Anne Lee, "Colonial Furniture, Part II: The Desk," Good Furniture and Decoration (April 1930): 184 (ill.), 183 (measured drawings).
Thomas H. Ormsbee, Early American Furniture Makers (New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1930), 49, pl. XVIII, ill.
Verna Cook Salomonsky, Masterpieces of Furniture Design (Michigan: Periodical Publishing Co., 1931), pl. 87 (measured drawings).
R. T. Haines Halsey and Elizabeth Tower, The Homes of Our Ancestors as Shown in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1935), fig. 110, opp. p. 143, ill.
Edgar G. Miller, American Antique Furniture: A Book for Amateurs, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Lord Baltimore Press, 1937), vol. 1, 490–491, no. 896.
R. T. Haines Halsey and Charles O. Cornelius, A Handbook of the American Wing, 6th rev. ed. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1938), 116, 118, 123, fig. 59.
R. T. Haines Halsey, Charles O. Cornelius, and Joseph Downs, A Handbook of the American Wing, 7th rev. ed. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1942), 116, 118, 123, fig. 59.
Joseph Downs, American Chippendale Furniture: A Picture Book, rev. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1949), fig. 3.
Marshall B. Davidson, The American Heritage History of Colonial Antiques (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1967), 226-27, fig. 319.
Robert Bishop, How to Know American Antique Furniture (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973), 70–71, fig. 78.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 322–23, fig. 8.14, 8.14a–b.
Morrison H. Heckscher, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Late Colonial Period, The Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles (New York: Random House, 1985), 282–284, 359, 363, 365, no. 184, ill.
Margaretta M. Lovell, "Such Furniture as Will Be Most Profitable: The Business of Cabinetmaking in Eighteenth-Century Newport," Winterthur Portfolio 26, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 32, 36, fig. 6.
Brock Jobe, "The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon," American Furniture (2001): 133, fig. 18–19.
Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 232, 236, fig. 100.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005), 15, fig. 8.
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.