image of object
Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's, New York
Click the image to enlarge

Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF504

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

94 40 3/4 24 3/4 in. (238.76 103.51 62.87 cm)

Date

1780–1800

Current location

Unknown

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); chestnut (drawer bottoms and some interior drawer sides); white pine (drawer sides, some interior drawer sides, backing for drawer dividers, and blocks for feet); yellow poplar (bottom of desk and bookcase, backboards desk and bookcase)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"Moses Ives," vertically in chalk, on backboard of bookcase; "B," in chalk, on underside of bottom board on bookcase; “Bottom,” in chalk, on interior bottom; "A" through "C," in graphite, on drawer dividers [top to bottom]; "A" through "C," in graphite, on interior drawer backs [top to bottom]; "A," in graphite, on interior back of upper drawer; possibly "2," in graphite, on interior of proper-right side of upper drawer [at rear corner] [blocks on back corners may conceal additional graphite]; "B," in graphite, on interior of back of second drawer from top; flourish, in graphite, on interior proper-left side of second drawer from top [at front left corner]; "4," in graphite, on interior drawer front of second drawer from top [at proper-left corner]; "2" in graphite, on interior proper-right side and interior front of second drawer from top [at front right corner]; flourish [possibly "2"] on proper-right interior side of second drawer from top [at front corner]; "3," in graphite, on interior proper-left side and exterior back of second drawer from top [at left rear corner]; "/," on interior proper-right side and exterior back of second drawer from top [at right rear corner]; "C," in graphite, on interior of back of third drawer from top; "III," and script [possibly 1], in graphite, in interior proper-right side of third drawer from top [at front corner]; "II," in graphite, on interior proper-left side and back of third drawer from top [at rear left corner]; "I," and script [possibly 1], in graphite, in interior proper-left side of third drawer from top [at front corner]; "X," in graphite, on interior proper-right side and back of third drawer from top [at rear right corner]

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Moses Brown Ives (1794–1857), Providence, Rhode Island; thence by descent in his family; consigned to Sotheby's, New York, January 18–21, 2018, lot 834 (unsold). Skinner, Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts (sale held Boston), November 3, 2018, lot 213

Associated names

Moses Brown Ives
Sotheby's
Skinner, Inc.

Construction

The serpentine pediment roof boards are fixed with rosehead nails to the tops of the pediment backboards, the scrollboard and the bookcase sides. The raised pediment "floor" is nailed to blocking within the closed pediment and to the top edge of the horizontal portion of the pediment backboard, which is fixed with rosehead nails to the back edges of the tops of the bookcase sides. The vertical walls of the pediment?s central void are nailed to blocking in the flanking enclosed portions. The nearly triangular upper portions of the pediment back are nailed with brads and glued to interior elements. A single-piece crown molding is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the single-board upper-case sides and to the scrollboard. Case sides and scrollboard meet in half-lapped joints; one is visible in the void left by the missing proper right plinth. To the three-quarter round ends of this single-board scrollboard are attached, with countersunk screws from behind, circular stylized rosettes. The three-quarter round cutouts below are edged with moldings which meet the crown molding in miter joints. These moldings each have a scarf joint near the bottom of their respective curves. Their central terminus is a (replaced) vertical block, with a pyramidal face fixed from behind through a rectangular block with a countersunk screw. A spherical, partially fluted finial with a corkscrew flame is doweled into the top of the rectangular block. At the proper left front corner of the pediment is a simple short plinth, whose finial is missing. The corresponding right hand plinth is missing; only a rectangular hole remains. Thumb-molded plaques are fixed to the scrollboard by invisible means. The back of the bookcase below consists of three vertical half-lapped boards nailed with brads into rabbets in its ceiling, sides and bottom. The single-board bookcase bottom meets its sides in dovetail joints having large, thick-necked pins of slightly varying configuration, with half-pin in front and back. The bookcase?s bottom rail extends below the bottom board, to fit between the desk top?s applied blocking and its perimeter molding. The arched, single-board panels of the bookcase doors are flat within and fielded without. Their upper rails, whose outside faces have small triangular recessed panels, are through-tenoned (the upper tenon is taller than the lower) to the outer stiles. The rails at the inside stiles are not through-tenoned. The doors are of the full-overlay sort; their outer stiles being flush with the outside faces of the bookcase walls. The inside faces of the bookcase walls and both faces of the intermediate stiles are fitted with horizontal plaques for the support of adjustable shelves. A single-piece nose-and-cove molding at the perimeter of the desk top obscures the joints between the single board top and single-board sides. An iron c-shaped hook is set into the back of the desk top and the top of the desk?s backboards. The hinged, thumb-molded lid consists of a large horizontal board tenoned into flanking narrow vertical boards; the joints between them are visible at the bottom of the lid when it is closed. It opens to an interior centering a shell-carved drawer flanked by rows of four valanced "pigeonholes" separated by scrolling uprights, over a row of five small, flat-fronted drawers above two long nose-and-cove-fronted drawers. The prominently kerf-marked prospect-drawer front meets its slightly shorter, rounded-top sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins of slightly varying configuration and spacing, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The smaller drawers are similarly constructed, with the exception of the lower drawers, which have thicker-necked pins. The single-board drawer bottoms, parallel to the front, are nailed with brads into rabbets in the elements above. The case back consists of horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with a variety of nails into rabbets in the case sides and a rosehead nail directly to the case bottom. The multiple board case bottom meets the case sides in dovetail joints having large, thick-necked pins of varying configuration and spacing. Several rosehead nails in the front of the case bottom connect it to the bottom rail. The top rail/writing surface and drawer dividers below meet the case sides in half-blind dovetail joints. The uprights beside the lopers and the bottom rail are set into grooves. Within the case, loper and drawer supports (largely replaced) are nailed to the case sides. Behind the bottom rail are multiple longitudinal triangular glue blocks. The lipped, thumb-molded, graduated, kerf-marked, long-drawer fronts meet their round-top, slightly shorter, scribe-marked sides in dovetail joints having thick-necked pins of varying configuration and spacing, with half-pins above and below. The single-board drawer bottoms are parallel to the front and chamfered at the sides, where they fit into grooves in the full-height drawer sides, and are accompanied underneath by glueblocks. The bottoms are nailed with brads to the backs of the slightly shorter drawer backs. A single-piece base molding is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the bottom rail and case sides. The feet consist of longitudinal shaped blocks at each corner, fixed directly to the case bottom. To the bottom of these blocks are attached vertical shaped blocks, the whole faced with ogee bracket feet. The back-facing brackets of the rear feet are simple, straight-profiled slightly serpentine boards; some portions are missing. The back-facing edge of the rear feet?s ogee brackets are flush with the case back. Examined by P.E. Kane, October 6, 2004; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

Sotheby's, New York, Important Americana, sale cat. (January 18–21, 2018), vol. 2, pp. 96–97, lot 834, ill.
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), 243n1.
Skinner, Inc., Boston and Marlborough, Mass., American Furniture and Decorative Arts, sale cat. (November 3, 2018), 34, lot 213, ill.