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


Object number

RIF2991

Maker

Maker Unknown
Maker, possibly by Daniel Goddard, born 1747

Dimensions

88 40 3/4 20 3/4 in. (223.52 103.505 52.705 cm) Diameter, interior of occuli: 5 1/2 in. (13.97 cm) Diameter, exterior of occuli: 7 in. (17.78 cm)

Date

1760–80

Current location

Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Department of State

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (drawer liners); chestnut (back of lower side drawers in lower case and sides and back of middle drawer in lower case); eastern pine (bottom of wide drawer in lower case); soft maple (small vertical partition between the two drawers in line in upper case); eastern white pine (some blocks and other small framing elements)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

Top drawers of upper case: “2,” in chalk, on interior proper-right side [at back]. Proper-right top drawer of upper case: “D,” in chalk, on interior back; “X,” in chalk, on interior back and proper-left side [at corner]; upward arrow, in chalk, on exterior proper-left side. Proper-left top drawer: “E,” in chalk, on interior back; “3” and “E,” in chalk, on interior proper-left side; “5,” in graphite, on interior bottom. Long drawers of upper case: “2,” in chalk, on the interior proper-right side and back [at rear corner]; “1,” in chalk, on the interior proper-left side and back [at rear corner]. Top long drawer of upper case: “2,” in graphite, on interior bottom of top long drawer of upper case. Middle long drawer of upper case: “3,” in graphite, on interior bottom. Bottom long drawer of upper case: “4,” in graphite, on interior bottom of lower long drawer of upper case. Top drawer of lower case: “5,” in chalk, on interior proper-right side and back [at rear corner]; “4,” in chalk, on interior of proper-left side and back [at rear corner]; “2,” in chalk, on interior proper-right side [at front corner]; other illegible numbers, in chalk, on interior corners; illegible graphite, on interior bottom. Proper-right bottom drawer of lower case: “A,” in graphite, on interior bottom; “5,” in chalk, on exterior back; “2,” in chalk, on interior sides [at front corners]; “3,” in chalk, on interior proper-right side [at rear corner]; u-shaped mark, in chalk, on interior back and proper-left side [at rear corner]. Middle bottom drawer of lower case: “1” through “3,” in chalk, in corners [from proper-right corner counter clockwise to proper-left rear corner]; “C,” in chalk, on interior sides; “B,” in graphite, on interior bottom. Proper-left bottom drawer of lower case: “B,” in chalk, on interior back; “X,” in chalk, on interior front and proper-left side [at front corner]; “2” or loop, in chalk, on proper-right interior side [at front corner]; “4,” in chalk, on interior back and proper-right side [at rear corner]; “2 [crossed out],” in chalk, on interior proper-left side [at rear corner]; crossed out numbers, in chalk, on interior back [at proper-left side]; illegible chalk, on exterior proper-right side. Upper case: “3,” in chalk and graphite, on top of divider under middle long drawer; “1,” in chalk, on interior case sides [at top and bottom]; “2,” in chalk, on underside of board under pediment [at either end]; “John Moore[?],” in chalk, on exterior back. Lower case: illegible inscription, in graphite, on upper surface of top rail.

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

By descent in the Greenell family, Newport, Rhode Island; sold John S. Walton, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1948. John S. Walton, Inc., New York, 1973; sold to Mr. and Mrs. Richard Titelman, Georgia; consigned to Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, January 31 and February 1–3, 1979, lot 1283; sold to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Department of State, Washington, D.C., 1979

Associated names

Greenell Family
John S. Walton, Inc.
Mrs. Richard Titelman
Sotheby Parke Bernet
John S. Walton

Construction

The upper-case roof consists of multiple thin boards shaped to align with the serpentine pediment and nailed with brads to the tops of the case sides, the pediment scrollboard and backboard. The flattened top of the pediment backboard and roof indicate the high chest was once reduced in height. The top most upper-case backboard, is half-lapped to the boards below; they are nailed with brads to the boards below; they are nailed with brads into rabbets in the case sides and the upper-case bottom. They were formally fixed with rosehead nails, whose shadows remain. One of the upper boards is also nailed to the rear edge of the upper-case ceiling. Shadows (and some nails) also remain of a connection to a now missing interior vertical batten. The lateral edges of the lower, rectangular backboards are slightly chamfered. The single-piece crown molding is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the pediment scrollboard and to the tops of the two-board case sides. The lower portion of this molding surrounds the segmental oculi, at the center of the pediment, joining the full crown above in a partial mitre joint, just shy of the pediments upper tennons. The upper portion of crown molding, oculi back-board and roof have been replaced. The oculi moldings are mitered to the molded base of a rectangular fluted plinth with a molded cap (nailed from above with sprigs) into which is doweled a later finial. The scrollboard is half-blind dovetailed to the two-board case sides, and rectangular horizontal glue blocks behind its bottom edge (some missings) help attach it to the two-board, scribe-lined upper-case ceiling, which is dovetailed to the top of the kerf-marked case sides. The scrollboard?s thumb-molded plaques are fixed to the scrollboard by invisible means. Within the upper case, the inside face of the upper backboard is proud of the lower backboards. The two-board case bottom meets the case sides in half-blind dovetail joints with thick-necked pins of slightly varying configuration, with half-pins in front and half-pins with rabbets in back. Nails in the case bottom?s front join it to the bottom rail above, and a single-piece rabbeted waist molding is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the bottom rail and case sides. There are three longitudinal rectangular glue blocks at the joint between case bottom and bottom rail. Within the case tip bars for the upper small drawers are fixed with rosehead nails. A medial transverse small-drawer support is half-lapped to the drawer divider in front and to a longitudinal support (set into grooves in the case sides) in back. An empty slot in the underside of this support and the shadow and nail holes below indicate the former location of a vertical batten. The long-drawer dividers are half-blind dovetailed to the case sides and align with supports fixed with rosehead nails. The bottom rail is set into grooves in the case sides. The two small and three long lipped thumb-molded kerf-marked and graduate drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, slightly arch-topped, scribe-lined sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins of slightly varying configuration, with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The drawer bottoms are parallel to the front and slightly chamfered there (where they fit into grooves) and at the sides, where runners are nailed to them with brads, and are nailed with brads to the bottoms of their flat-topped drawer backs. The single-board, straight-skirted lower-case backboard meets the single-board, scallop-skirted case sides in dovetail joints have pins of slightly varying configuration, with half-pins above and below. Nails in the outside face of the proper right lower corner of the backboard reinforce its connection with the proper right rear leg. A transverse rail is set into grooves in the top of each lower-case side in front; each joint is reinforced with brads nailed from above. A transverse batten is half-lapped and nailed with brads to the back of this rail and to the top of the case-back at the mid-point of the lower case. A mahogany strip, rabbeted at each end, is attached to the front of this rail. At each lateral extremity of the lower-case front a vertical veneer strip conceals the joints between the case sides and its various horizontal elements. Lateral transverse sup[ports for the upper drawer are half-lapped to the drawer divider in front and set into grooves in the backboard. Small-drawer transverse supports are half-lapped to the skirt board in front (reinforced with brads) and set into grooves in the backboard. The inside face of the skirtboard on either side of the carved shell is rabbeted to receive vertical small-drawer guides, fronted by vertical mahogany dividers. The guides are set into grooves in the dustboard above and fixed with nails into the rabbets in the skirtboard. They are held in below by vertical chamfered glue blocks ? short ones under the deep flanking drawers ? which are also held in with brads. The ends of the vertical guides and associated glue blocks are flush with the lower edge of the skirt board. Transverse drawer guides are tenoned and wood-pinned to the backs of these vertical guides and set into grooves in the backboard. The small drawers in the lower case differ from those above in their bottoms, which are flat, perpendicular to the front, and have no runners. The legs are of the ?detachable? sort, held into the corners of the case by vertical rectangular glue blocks. The inside face of the skirtboard is rabbeted to receive glue blocks for the front legs. The legs are square at the knee; the rear legs have rounded ankles and full-disk shod pad feet and the front have deeply carved tendons, toes, and claws grasping elongated ball feet. The rear legs project beyond the plane of the backboard. Each knee bracket (some are replaced) is attached with glue and a single nail. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, August 21, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

Notes


Bibliography

"John S. Walton advertisement," Antiques 53, no. 2 (February 1948): 97, ill.
"John S. Walton, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 103, no. 2 (February 1973): 220, ill.
Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Fine Americana, sale cat. (January 31–February 3, 1979), lot 1283, ill.
"Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 115, no. 1 (January 1979): 18.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 295, fig. 7.20–7.20a–b.
Clement E. Conger, Alexandra W. Rollins, and Mary Itsell, Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991), 106, no. 25.
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), 294n3.
Oscar P. Fitzgerald, American Furniture: 1650 to the Present (Lanham, Md.: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2018), 82, fig. 4.43.