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Photo: Courtesy Christie's, New York
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Chest of drawers

Object number



Maker John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


34 5/8 37 3/4 20 5/8 in. (87.948 95.885 52.388 cm)



Current location

Private Collection


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


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


"MADE BY / JOHN TOWNSEND / NEWPORT" printed on a paper label glued to the center of the bottom of the uppermost drawer; the label is also inscribed in ink: "Sarah Slocum's / November 20th 1792."


Inscribed on second paper label on bottom of uppermost drawers, "[illegible] give to Lydia T Conner"; in graphite and chalk, inscribed variously on drawers and drawer slides: "A, B, C"; in chalk, inscribed (upside down) at the center of the back boards, "J*T"; in graphite, inscribed on a cross-brace, "J.C.S. Taber"


Sarah Slocum (1771–1859), Newport, Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1792; by descent to her cousin, Joseph S. Tillinghast (1802–1876), Newport, Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Massachusetts; by descent to his daughter, Lydia Tillinghast Conner (1848–1914), New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Springfield, Massachusetts; by descent to her son, William Tillinghast Conner (1848–1914), New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Springfield, Massachusetts; by descent to Lydia Conner's first cousins, James Curtis Swan Taber (1854–unknown), New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Boston, and his sister, Isabella C. Taber (1845–unknown); by descent in the Taber family possibly to James Curtis Swan Taber, mentioned above, or his daughter Caroline Louisa Taber (1902–unknown), Boston, 1929. John S. Walton, New York, 1951; sold to Dr. William S. Serri (1911-1995), Merchantville and Swedesboro, New Jersey, by 1953; consigned by his estate to Christie's, New York, June 18, 1998, lot 151; sold to the present owners

Associated names

Sarah Slocum
Joseph S. Tillinghast
Lydia Tillinghast Conner
James Curtis Swan Taber
Dr. William S. Serri
William Tillinghast Conner
Caroline Louisa Taber
John S. Walton, Inc.


The mahogany top is attached to battens at the front and back with sliding dovetails that are visible from the back of the chest. The battens are dovetailed to the case sides. The mahogany top overhangs the backboards slightly. The top horizontal backboards are joined with a lap joint and are nailed to rabetts in the chest sides, to the subtop, and to the back edge of the bottom board. The bottom board is two pieces with a large board at the front and narrow board at the back. The brackets on the back feet are ogee-shaped and butt the sides of the rear feet with the joint reinforced at the back with a vertical block. The feet are blocked with horiztonal blocks mitred together at the corners and vertical blocks that rest upon them.

See also


Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 115–17, no. 19, ill.
Lori Zabar, "Picturing John Townsend's Clients," Antiques and Fine Art 6, no. 2 (Summer 2005): 146.
Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., The Arts and Crafts of Newport, Rhode Island, 1640–1820 (Newport, R.I.: Preservation Society of Newport County, 1954), 65, 203, no. 39, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 76-77, fig. 2.6, 2.6a, 2.6b, 2.6c, 3.6.
"John S. Walton Antiques, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 59, no. 1 (February 1951): 88, ill.
Helen Comstock, "The Collection of Dr. William S. Serri," Antiques 71, no. 3 (March 1957): 259, ill.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Silver, Folk Art, and Decorative Arts: Including the Block and Shell Carved Chest of Drawers Made by John Townsend, sale cat. (June 18, 1998), 91, lot 151, fig. 10,10a.
Albert Sack, The New Fine Points of Furniture: Early American (New York: Crown Publishers, 1993), 111, Masterpiece, ill.
Thomas H. Ormsbee, The Story of American Furniture (New York: MacMillan Company, 1934), 71, fig. 25.
Brock Jobe, Gary R. Sullivan, and Jack O'Brien, Harbor and Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710–1850 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2009), 9, fig. 1.9.
Morrison H. Heckscher, "John Townsend's Block-and-Shell Furniture," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 1152n.17.
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), 290n4, 453, 455n11.