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Photo: Courtesy Christie's, New York
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High chest of drawers

Object number



Maker, formerly attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809
Maker, attributed to Benjamin Peabody, 1717–1794


81 1/2 39 1/2 21 1/2 in. (207.01 100.33 54.61 cm)



Current location



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


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (back of pediment, lower case back, top rail, and drawer dividers, upper case top, bottom, and drawer dividers, blocks at top of case, and blocks on proper right front leg); yellow poplar (backboards lower case, top of bonnet, and drawer linings)




"1" and "I," in chalk, at center of interior of proper left drawer front of small drawer in upper case and "1," in chalk on proper left drawer side; "II," in chalk on back corners of same drawer; "2," bisected by a line, in chalk on propler left side and at center of exterior back of other small drawer in upper case; "4" and "3," at the corners of the exterior back of the same drawer; "4," in chalk, on one side near rear corner of second long drawer from top in upper case; "1" and "2," in chalk, at center interior back of two deep drawers in lower case; "GINSBURG & LEVY, INC., / ANTIQUES / 815 MADISON AVE. / NEW YORK," printed on paper labels on back of lower case, back of upper case and in long drawer in lower case; multiplication, in chalk, underside of upper case bottom


By descent in the Robinson-Parsons family, Rhode Island to Ella Parsons (born 1867), Philadelphia, by 1922. A New York private collector; consigned to Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January 14, 1939, lot 109. Ginsburg and Levy, Inc., New York; sold to Joseph K. Ott (1929–1994), Providence, Rhode Island, 1960; by descent to his wife Anne Northrup Ott (1929–2015), Providence, Rhode Island; consigned to Christie's, New York, January 20, 2012, lot 168

Associated names

Parsons-Robinson Family
Joseph K. Ott
Ella Parsons
Ginsburg and Levy, Inc.
Anne Northrop Ott
Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc.


The pediment roof comprises multiple boards shaped to align with the serpentine pediment and nailed with brads to the pediment backboard, the pediment scrollboard, the upper case top, the top of the upper case sides and two transverse battens. The bonnet is closed. The shaped and thumb-molded scrollboards center a beaded plinth on which sits a turned urn-form finial. The top rail of the upper case joins the case sides with butt joints, as does the vertical divider between the two upper drawers. Visible within is the single-board case top, held in place in part by two longitudinal glue blocks behind the top rail. The upper case drawer dividers join the case sides by means of half-blind dovetails. The upper drawer divider is joined to a transverse drawer support attached to a lateral drawer support across the back of the case, lap jointed to the outside drawer supports. Above the medial transverse drawer support is a drawer guide. The long drawer supports are attached to the case sides with rosehead nails and (later) screws. Underneath the drawer supports are thin strips glued and nailed with brads. The two-board upper case back is rabbeted and nailed with roseheads and brads into the upper case top and single-board sides and displays hand sawing marks on the interior. The upper case drawers consist of two small and three large thumb-molded and graduated drawers, the small drawers fitted with touch latches attached with rosehead nails. The drawer sides and drawer backs are flat and full height. The dovetails are very neat and thin-necked, having half-pins above and below, with a rabbet engaging the drawer bottom, below which are running strips nailed to the drawer sides. The drawer bottoms are feather-chamfered at the front and sides, parallel to the drawer fronts and nailed with brads to the underside of the drawer backs. The drawer hardware appears to be original. The upper case bottom is a single board joined by dovetails to the case sides, flush with waist moldings nailed to it with brads and fitted with two transverse battens attached with brads. The lower case top rail is rabbeted into the facing above the front leg. The board behind the rail is dovetailed into the single-board serpentine-skirted case sides. The single-board case back is dovetailed to the case sides and has a square-edged, straight skirt. The rear legs are held in place within vertical corner channels with vertical chamfered and rectilinear glue blocks. Full depth drawer supports and guides are let into the case back and front. The serpentine skirt centers a vigorously carved stylized shell. The rear legs are fitted with (later) iron straps screwed into the lower case back and rear knees, and protrude beyond the case back. All four cabriole legs are square-sectioned and sharp-kneed, the rear legs ending in raised pad feet, the front legs with vigorously carved tendons and knuckles. The feet have elongated balls and undercut talons. Examined by P. E. Kane and W. S. Braznell, January 20, 2012; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

See also


Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 186, fig. 3.104, 3.104a–b.
Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 90–91, no. 59, Detail on p.166, fig. 59, ill.
Joseph K. Ott, "Some Rhode Island Furniture," Antiques 107, no. 5 (May 1975): 945, fig. 9.
Christie's, New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph K. Ott, sale cat. (January 20, 2012), 84–87, lot 168.
"Newport Restoration Foundation Presents Trio of Newport Highboys," Antiques and the Arts Weekly (May 17, 2013): 41.
Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, Early American Furniture and Decorations, sale cat. (January 14, 1939), 30–31, lot 109, ill.
Patricia E. Kane, "'An Ingenious Man:' Benjamin Peabody, Newport Cabinetmaker," American Furniture (2021): (forthcoming).