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Photo: Courtesy Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, Del., 1958.2139
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Bureau table

Object number



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


Height: 33 1/2 38 20 in. (85.09 96.52 50.8 cm) Top: 36 5/8 19 in. (93.03 48.26 cm)



Current location

Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library


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


Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (drawer linings, cabinet sides, front batten supporting top, internal stiles, and some drawer supports); chestnut (dust board, bottom board, some drawer supports, glue blocks on feet, and glue blocks behind upper front rail); pine (backboards, backing of cabinet shelves, and bottom of cabinet); maple (rear batten supporting top)




Illegible graphite, on interior back of one upper drawer and exterior back of other upper drawer; “B,” in graphite, on interior back of one of middle drawers; “C,” in graphite, on interior back of one of lower drawers; "E," on exterior back of one of middle drawers; illegible graphite, on exterior back of one of lower drawer; “D” through “E,” in graphite, on tops of dividers under proper-right small drawers [top to bottom]; “A” through “C[?]” in graphite, on tops of dividers under proper-left small drawers [top to bottom]; Roman numerals [probably later], in graphite, on tops of drawer dividers; "X," branded on the interior bottom of one of middle drawers; "V" [small], branded on interior bottom of one of lower drawers; "IV," branded on interior proper-right side of one of upper drawers; "V" [small], branded on the interior bottom of one of middle drawers; "X" [large], branded on the interior bottom of one of lower drawers; "B" and "W," scratched on top exterior back boards


Israel Sack, Boston; sold to Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969), Winterthur, Delaware, 1928; given to Winterthur Museum, Delaware, 1958

Associated names

Israel Sack, Inc.
Henry Francis du Pont


TOP: The solid board top, ogee molded on the front and sides and flat on the back, overhangs the back slightly. It is attached with wooden dovetail keys to front and back battens, which, in turn are dovetailed to the top of the sides. Below the front batten are three long glue blocks; an original, single, continuous glue block at the sides is now missing. An applied cove cornice molding is glued to the case. An applied bead is nailed to the underside of the top rail. DRAWERS: The full-depth drawer divider below the wide drawer is a mahogany blade backed with chestnut and is joined to the case sides on sliding dovetailed and nailed to the top of the internal stiles. The rails below the small drawers are solid wood. All the rails have beaded edges; the beading on the sides of the drawer openings is applied. On the drawers, the carved, projecting twelve-lobe shells are applied, and the blocked drawers are cut from solid wood; the drawer fronts have flat inner facesl the dovetail pins are small and closely spaced; the top edge of the drawer sides is rounded. The drawer bottoms, chamfered all around, overlap the sides and back and have applied battens. On the top drawer, the grain of the bottom board runs side to side; on the other drawers, it runs front to back. The drawer runners are nailed to the sides and to the internal stiles forming the walls of the cabinet. CABINET: The concave cabinet door is cut from solid wood. Behind the door are two straight, fixed, mahogany shelves backed by tulip poplar. A board has been inserted in the bottom of the cabinet section bringing it level with the top of the bottom rail. BASE: The base molding is attached to the front edge of the bottom board; it is nailed over the dovetailed lower edges of the sides. The bracket feet are glued to the bottom of the base molding and reinforced with shaped vertical blocks flanked by horizontal blocks. The side bracket on the rear legs project beyond the back of the case. The back bracket on the rear legs is cut in an ogee shape and is butted to the side bracket; the joint is reinforced with glue blocks. BACK: The back is two horizontal boards; the top board is cut for a lap join, the lower board is butt. Both boards are nailed to rabbets in the sides, the back of the sub top with cut nails, and the back edge of the bottom board with rosehead nails.


Bureau tables attributed to John Townsend include this example and another, RIF210, whose cupboards are not recessed. Other bureau tables with recessed cupboards attributed to John Townsend include RIF 231, RIF 271, RIF661, RIF1430, RIF1784, RIF1785, and RIF3607.


Nancy E. Richards and Nancy Goyne Evans, New England Furniture at Winterthur: Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods (Winterthur, Del.: Winterthur Publications, 1997), 389–390, no. 191, Winterthur accession no. 58.2139, ill.
Loan Exhibition of Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth-Century Furniture and Glass, exh. cat. (New York: American Art Galleries, 1929), n.p., no. 607, ill.
Joseph Downs, American Furniture: Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods in the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum (New York: MacMillan Company, 1952), no. 176, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 161, fig. 3.85.
Morrison H. Heckscher, "John Townsend's Block-and-Shell Furniture," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 1151, fig. 21.
Wendy A. Cooper, "In Praise of America," Antiques 117, no. 3 (March 1980): 602, fig. 1.
James Smith, "The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum," Antiques 113, no. 6 (June 1978): 1288, ill.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 132–33, no. 28, 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), 280n2.