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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF454

Maker

Maker: possibly John Goddard, 1723/24–1785

Dimensions

Height, with finials: 241.777 cm (95 3/16 in.); Width, lower case, with moldings: 110.808cm (43 5/8in.); Width, lower case, without moldings: 102.87 cm (40 1/2 in.); Width, upper case: 96.996 cm (38 3/16 in.); Depth, lower case, at feet: 75.883 cm (29 7/8 in.); Depth, lower case: 57.468 cm (22 5/8 in.); Depth, upper case: 28.416 cm (11 3/16 in.)

Date

1760–1780, possibly 1781

Current location

Private collection

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); chestnut (desk: bottom and backboards, blocks across front bottom board, backing for the drawer dividers, drawer runners, blocks on feet, bottom and sides of well, and bottom of interior; bookcase: back, top, and base of pediment); cherry (bookcase bottom, top, backboards, and vertical and horizontal dividers); red cedar (interior drawer linings); maple (closed pediment front)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"1" to "11," in graphite, on interior desk drawers near the interior front corners of drawer sides and at center interiors of drawer backs; "A" through "D" ["A" and "D" written multiple times], in graphite, on interior drawer backs of exterior desk drawers; illegible letter or flourish, in graphite, on exterior bottom of upper exterior desk drawer; "C," in graphite, on top surface of drawer divider under second exterior desk drawer from top; "1" to "6," in graphite, on valance drawers near interior front corners of drawer sides and at center interiors of drawer backs; mathematical figures, in chalk, on exterior bottom of valance drawer marked "2"; "Back," in graphite, on exterior pediment backboard; "Bottom," in graphite, on exterior bookcase bottom board; "178[?]1," "X," and illegible script, in chalk, on exterior bookcase backboards; "This desk belonged to our great great/grandfather Thomas Robinson who bought/this house about 1756./A. W. S./1897," written in ink on a paper label glued to interior of one of bookcase doors

Provenance

Thomas Robinson (1730–1817), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his wife, Sarah Robinson (died 1817), Newport; by descent to his two children, Abigail Robinson (died 1835) and Joseph Jacob Robinson (died 1835); by descent to their niece, Esther Minturn (died 1856), the daughter of their brother, William T. Robinson (1/8 share), as well as their niece, Esther Morton Smith (1865–1942, 3/4 share) and nephew, Robert Morton (1/8 share), son and daughter of their sister Mary; by descent in the Smith family; by descent to Henry Austin Wood, Jr.; by descent to descent to Henry Austin Wood; sold to a private collection

Associated names

Thomas Robinson
Henry A. Wood, Jr.
Henry Austin Wood

Construction

The roof of the bookcase section consists of multiple transverse boards shaped to align the serpentine pediment and nailed with brads to the top of the pediment backboard, the top of the scrollboard, and to blocking within the closed pediment. The single-piece beaded crown molding is nailed with brads in its front face and from above to the case sides and scrollboard. The beaded portion of the crown molding is cut out just below its termini at the center of the pediment. Into these slots are set the bead moldings which surround the three-quarter-round oculi below; they proceed to the moldings at the base of the fluted rectangular central plinth, which supports a spherical, partially fluted finial with corkscrew flame, cut down in the back to fit against the black-painted board behind. Below are thumb-molded scrollboard plaques. The pediment backboard is a single arched piece, held in place by brads through the roof boards above, and by rosehead nails fixed to the top of the bookcase sides. The bookcase backboard consists of three half-lapped boards, fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the single-board case sides, into partitions within the bookcase, into rabbets in the single board bookcase roof, and directly into the single-board upper-case bottom, which is half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. Within the bookcase are straight-frontedl shelves, set in grooves in the case sides. Set into V-shaped grooves in the shelves, and grooves in the floor and ceiling are upright, scroll-fronted dividers. The doors are connected to the case sides by four pairs of brass hinges, each leaf thrice-screwed. Their rails are tenoned, without wood pins, to the stiles; they are all thumb-molded at their inside and outside edges. The lower rails extend through the bottoms of the inside stiles. A brass bolt push-latch attached with brass nails to the widened, recessed portions of the proper right door?s left hand stile fixes it into the case. The single-board door panels are deeply chamfered on their outside faces, and flat on their inside faces. The bottom board of the upper case sits upon two transverse blocks nailed to the outside edges of the desk top below. The bottom rail of the upper case, which contains two candleslides with thumb-molded fronts, projects below the bottom board, allowing the bookcase to sit securely upon three longitudinal blocks, shallower than the transverse ones, at the front of the single-board desk top. Moldings conceal the joint between the desk top and the single-board case sides. The hinged, lipped, thumb-molded lid consists of three pieces – one large horizontal board tenoned into two narrow vertical boards. The joints between them are visible at the bottom edge of the lid when it is closed. It opens to reveal an interior centering a concave-blocked, shell-carved prospect door (flanked by beaded stiles),behind which are three concave-blocked small drawers. On either side are small drawers with valanced, beaded, quarter-spherically concave-blocked fronts over open compartments with scrolling dividers, with convex-blocked small drawers below, flanked by banks of concave-blocked small drawers, the upper ones shell-carved. The shell-carved, concave-blocked, kerf-marked fronts meet their slightly shorter, round-topped sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The convex-blocked small drawers have dovetails which are considerably smaller. The drawer bottoms, perpendicular to the front, are glued into rabbets in the elements above. The whole sits upon a molded base before a sliding storage well with molded edge. The lower-case backboard consists of three horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with rosehead nails into rabbets in the case top and sides, and directly to the case bottom. Visible within the lower case is an unfinished board at the bottom of the desk interior. Below, and at either end of that board are visible the undersides of the boards which flank the sliding well cover of the desk interior. These also serve as tip bars for the lopers. A longitudinal brace nailed to the backboards with rosehead nails also serves as the lopers? stop. Wide supports for the lopers are fixed with rosehead nails into the case sides. These are deeply chamfered at the back and also serve as supports for the upper drawer. Supports for the lower three drawers are fixed with rosehead nails to the case sides. The supports have been flipped. A vertical brace near the midpoint of the case interior is nailed to the backboards. Its bottom is visible through the single-board case bottom, which is half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. The top rail and drawer dividers are half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. The bottom rail, behind which are three rectangular horizontal glue blocks, is set into grooves in the case sides. The thumb-molded lopers are enclosed by uprights set into grooves in the top rail and the drawer divider below. The lopers appear to be full height; only the upper portion is functional. The long-drawer fronts are lipped, graduated and thumb-molded, meeting their slightly shorter, round-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints having finely cut, narrow-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. Some of the tails are reinforced with rosehead nails. The single-board, full-width drawer bottoms are parallel to the drawer fronts, and slightly chamfered at the sides, where they are held on by runners, and at the front, where they fit into grooves. There are two nails, at the proper left and right front corners of the case bottom, joining it to the bottom rail. A single-piece base molding is applied with brads to the case sides and bottom rail. The bottom of this base molding is slightly proud of the case bottom. This gap is made up by slender blocking strips, to which the feet are attached. The front feet consist of shaped vertical blocks fixed directly to the blocking strips and flanked by longitudinal blocks, the whole faced with mitered ogee brackets. The rear feet are similar, except for the back brackets, which are simple straight boards of serpentine profile, set into vertical grooves in the side-facing ogee brackets. The back-facing edge of the rear feet?s side brackets have an ogee profile. Examined by P. E. Kane, August 12, 2013 and August 13, 2004; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Notes

There is evidence of original finish, which appears to be untouched.

Bibliography

Alice Winchester, "Living with Antiques: The Newport Home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Wood, Jr.," The Magazine Antiques 68, no. 6 (December 1955): p.566.