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Photo: Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Jamee J. and Marshall Field V, 1984.1387
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Bureau table

Object number



Maker, attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


34 1/8 36 3/4 20 in. (86.678 93.345 50.8 cm)



Current location

Art Institute of Chicago


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


Mahogany (primary); maple, chestnut, and white pine (secondary)




“A” through “F,” in graphite, on interior bottoms of small drawers; “C,” in graphite, on exterior back of proper-right lower drawer; “E,” in graphite, on exterior back of proper-left middle drawer; “B,” in graphite, on exterior backboards; “A” through “C,” in graphite, on dividers under proper-right small drawers; “D” and “F,” in graphite, on dividers under proper-left top and bottom small drawers; “E,” in chalk, on divider under proper-left small drawer


Probably Samuel Fowler (1718–1794), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his son Christopher Fowler, Newport, Rhode Island; by descent in the Fowler family; sold to John S. Walton Antiques, Inc., Old Lyme, Connecticut, 1976; sold to Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Field, Chicago, Illinois, by 1984; given to the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 1984

Associated names

Jamee J. and Marshall Field
Samuel Fowler
Christoper Fowler
Heirs of The Fowler Family
John S. Walton, Inc.


The rectangular, oblong, single-board top is molded at its front and side edges and square at its back edge, where it slightly overhangs the case below. The beaded cove molding beneath it is fixed to the case by face-nailed brads at the sides and by wood-filled fasteners in front. The molding extends beyond the case back at the rear corners to the edge of the overhanging top and returns upon itself. The caseback consists of two horizontal boards with a diagonal joint (now filled with a thin strip of wood), slightly chamfered at the case sides, where they are nailed with brads into rabbets. The upper backboard is flat at the top, where it is nailed with brads to the back of a longitudinal batten under the case?s top board. The lower board, flat at the bottom, is fixed with cut nails to the edge of the case?s bottom board. The rabbeted ends of the top rail are set into grooves in the case sides. The drawer dividers and bottom rail all meet their case sides and intermediate walls in half-blind dovetail joints. The horizontal cockbeading is integral with each drawer divider, including the cockbeading at the bottom of the upper drawer divider spanning the recessed section. Vertical cockbeading is applied to the case sides with glue and brads. The convex, flanking, carved shells of blockfronted frieze drawer are applied; the concave center shell is carved from the solid. The convex-blocked graduated small-drawer fronts? inside faces are flat, with prominent planing marks. They meet their slightly shorter, scribe-lined, arch-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins of slightly varying configuration, with pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The single-board small-drawer bottoms are perpendicular to the fronts, where they fit into grooves, and full-width, with runners applied with brads. Their fronts and sides are chamfered, and their back ends are nailed with multiple brads to the bottoms of the flat-topped drawer backs. The banks of graduated drawers flank a recessed cupboard with a cockbeaded surround enclosing a concave-blocked and shell-carved door. A single-piece base molding is fixed to the case with wood-filled fasteners. The single-piece case bottom meets the case sides in dovetail joints having thick-necked pins of widely varying configuration. The feet consist of shaped horizontal blocks, mitered at each corner, to which are attached shaped vertical blocks, the whole faced with blocked and scroll-carved ogee brackets. Separate sections of quarter round moldings, aligning with the upper portion of the ogee bracket faces of the feet, are fixed with rosehead nails to the underside of the base molding between the outer front and rear bracket feet and within the central recessed area. The proper left front foot, including blocks and brackets, is replaced. The rear-facing brackets of the back feet are simple straight-profiled ogee brackets to the backs of which are attached ogee-shaped vertical blocks aligning with the backs of the side-facing outer brackets? rear faces. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, November 6, 2014; noted complied by T. B. Lloyd.


Other bureau tables attributed to John Townsend include RIF 231, RIF 271, RIF1430, RIF1784, RIF1785, and RIF3607. A variation, also attributed to John Townsend, has a cupboard that is not recessed, see RIF210 and RIF 1431.


Judith A. Barter et al., American Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1998), 80-82, no. 22, Accession no. 1984.1387, ill.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 129, 131, 190–91, no. 27, fig. 63.
"John S. Walton Antiques, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 110, no. 1 (July 1976): 4, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 163, fig. 3.88, 3.88a, 3.8.