image of object
Photo: Courtesy Christie's, New York
Click the image to enlarge

Upholstered armchair

Object number



Maker, probably by John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


Height, including casters: 44 in. (111.76 cm)



Current location


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


Mahogany (primary); maple (seat rails, stiles, crest rail, and stay rail); pine (corner blocks)






Possibly John Townsend (1732–1809), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his daughter, Mary Townsend Brinley (1769–1856), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to her nephew, Christopher Townsend (1807–1881), Newport, Rhode Island, 1856; by descent to his sister, Ellen F. Townsend (1809–1887), Newport, Rhode Island; sold by her estate to William P. Sheffield (1819–1907), Newport, Rhode Island, and his sister; by descent to his son, William P. Sheffield (1857–1919), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his son, William P. Sheffield, Jr., Newport, Rhode Island; sold by his estate to Harry Arons (1891–1967), Bridgeport, Connecticut, ca. 1969; sold to Joseph K. Ott (1929–1994), Providence, Rhode Island, before 1975; by descent to his wife Anne Northrup Ott (1929–2015), Providence; Rhode Island; consigned to Christie's, New York, January 20, 2012, lot 148 (unsold)

Associated names

Joseph K. Ott
Mary Townsend Brinley
Christopher Townsend
William P. Sheffield
William P. Sheffield
Ellen F. Townsend
William P. Sheffield, Jr.
John Townsend
Harry Arons
Anne Northrop Ott


The crest rail is in two parts: the flat, lower portion meets the raking stiles in mortise and tenon joints; the upper serpentine portion has a beveled top edge. The rear face of the lower back brace is cut out in a manner which suggests the former presence of vertical braces. It meets the stiles and the top of the rear legs in dovetail joints. The raking, square-sectioned rear legs are spliced and screwed to the stiles just above the rear seat rail, which they meet in mortise and tenon joints, each with one wood pin. The side rails also meet the rear legs in mortise and tenon joints, each with one wood pin. Triangular blocks are fixed with rosehead nails to each corner of the frame. Each serpentine arm meets the stile in a mortise and tenon joint, with a wood pin through the stile?s inside face. The arm, with a scroll-carved terminus, is attached by a dowel to the top of the incurvate support. The arm support meets the front legs in mortise and tenon joints, with one wood pin above each leg. A portion of mahogany behind the unfluted, top portion of the front legs is seemingly tenoned into the arm support above, which contains another wood pin. The rectilinear stretchers have slightly rounded tops, and meet their respective legs flush with their outside faces, in mortise and tenon joints, each with one wood pin. The medial stretcher meets the side stretchers in a dovetail joint. The front legs are stop-fluted on their outside faces. At the bottom of the inside face of the rear legs is a slight chamfer. Each leg has a caster, doweled into its underside, held on with a domed-top fastener, and fitted with a wood wheel. Examined by P.E. Kane, December 16, 2011; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd

See also


Joseph K. Ott, "Recent Discoveries Among Rhode Island Cabinetmakers and Their Work," Rhode Island History 28, no. 1 (Winter 1969): 12–13, fig. 2–2b.
Joseph K. Ott, "Still More Notes on Rhode Island Cabinetmakers and Allied Craftsmen," Rhode Island History 28, no. 4 (November 1969): 115–116.
Christie's, New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph K. Ott, sale cat. (January 20, 2012), 54–55, lot 148.
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), 80–81, fig. 13.