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Bureau table

Object number



Maker, formerly attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809
Maker Jonathan Townsend, 1745–1772


32 1/2 × 36 1/2 × 20 in. (82.55 × 92.71 × 50.8 cm)



Current location

Private Collection


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


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (long drawer bottoms, drawer dividers below long drawer and upper and middle small drawers, drawer stops, bottom boards, and glue blocks); yellow poplar (back boards, long drawer sides and back, small drawer linings, drawer runners, drawer supports, one drawer stop, and cupboard shelves); pine (drawer dividers below lower drawers, cross battens, kick bars, and cupboard sides)


"Jonathan Townsend," in graphite, on exterior upper drawer bottom


Math calculations and “1767,” twice, in graphite, on outside of upper drawer bottom; “A” through “F,” in graphite, on drawer dividers below small drawers; “II,” in graphite, on outside of proper right middle drawer back; “2 [sideways script],” in graphite, on outside of proper right middle drawer back; “III,” in graphite, on outside of proper right top drawer back; “3” [sideways script], in graphite, on outside of proper right top drawer, back; “6[?],” [script], in graphite, on outside of proper right lower drawer bottom; “180 / 240 / — / 420 / 18 / — / 438” [math calculations], in chalk, on outside of proper left side of proper right lower drawer; “I,” in graphite, on outside of proper left lower drawer, back; “5,” in graphite, on outside of proper left middle drawer bottom; two scrolls, in graphite, on outside of proper left middle drawer bottom; “$” or “8,” in graphite, on outside of proper left middle drawer bottom; “4[?],” in graphite, on outside of proper left lower drawer bottom; “16 / ?2 / 250” [math calculation], in graphite, on inside of proper left case side; “CHCG,” inscribed, on back edge of top, upper surface of top drawer divider, and proper right side of cupboard interior


By descent in the Pell family, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island, to 2013; probably by descent to Emily Coster (née Pell, 1857–1933), New York, Tuxedo Park, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island, or possibly by descent to her brother, HRhode Island, by descent to their son and nephew, respectively, Charles Henry Coster (1898–1977), Warwick, New York, by 1933; by descent in his family, until 2013; consigned to Christie’s, New York, January 24–25 and 28, 2013, lot 157; sold to a private collection

Associated names

Herbert Claiborne Pell
Emily Pell Coster
Charles Henry Coster


The oblong, single-board top is molded at its sides and front, below which is a one-piece beaded cove molding. The top and the cove moldings overhang the case slightly at the back. The top is secured to the case by means of "sliding" dovetails, the outlines of which are visible at the back, which connect it to the full-length horizontal battens under the top, one at the back and one at the front of the case. It is further secured by multiple glue blocks at the joints between the top and the battens, and by glue blocks at the joint between the front batten and the top rail of the case. Below the battens are full-depth strips, attached to the single-board case sides, which prevent the top drawer from tipping forward. The case contains one long drawer above two banks of three graduated short drawers, centering a recessed compartment with a hinged door. Within the case are drawer stops glued into the rear corners. The dust board below the top drawer is full-depth. Within the banks of small drawers are full-depth drawer supports nailed to the case sides and partitions. The case back consists of three horizontal half-lapped boards nailed with brads to the batten beneath the top, to rabbets in the case sides, and to the base boards. In the backboards are several nails securing it to partitions within the case. The top and bottom rails and drawer dividers are attached to the case sides and partitions with half-blind dovetails. While the horizontal cockbeading at the drawer openings is integral with the drawer dividers, the vertical cockbeading is nailed with brads. A row of cockbeading extends across the bottom of the divider below the top drawer. The concave and convex-blocked upper drawer front has applied shell carvings centering a concave-carved shell and is attached to its drawer sides with dovetail joints, having finely cut pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. There are slight kerf marks on the drawer fronts. The top of the upper drawer sides is arched, and slightly shy of the top of the drawer front, which is slightly rounded across most of its inside edge, but chamfered at its ends. The two-board upper drawer bottom is flat and parallel to its front, where it is nailed into a rabbet. It has full-depth drawer runners and is nailed with brads to the drawer back. The convex-blocked small-drawer fronts are attached to their sides with dovetail joints having small, thick-necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The arched top sides are slightly shy of the drawer front tops. The perpendicular, slightly chamfered drawer bottoms fit into grooves in the front, are secured by brads to full-depth drawer runners, and nailed into the drawer backs above. The door in the center recessed section is blocked and shell-carved from the solid and opens to two fixed shelves with half-round mahogany fronts. The two-board case bottom is attached to the drawer sides with dovetail joints having large, thick-necked pins. It is slightly shy of the bottom of the base moldings and contains a variety of nails securing it to partitions in the case above. The base molding is nailed with brads to the case bottom above. The facing and blocking of the feet are largely replaced. Examined by P. E. Kane, J. S. Gordon, J. N. Johnson and T. B. Lloyd, January 21, 2013; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.


Christie's, New York, Important American Silver, Furniture, Folk Art, Prints, English Pottery, and Chinese Export Art, sale cat. (January 24–25 and 28, 2013), 148–155, lot 157, ill.
"Ringing in the New at Christie's," Antiques and the Arts Weekly (February 15, 2013): 20–21, ill.
Lita Solis-Cohen, "Americana at Christie's," Maine Antique Digest (April 2013): 35-C, ill.
"Christie's advertisement," Antiques 180, no. 1 (January–February 2013): 89, ill.
Erik K. Gronning and Amy Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition," American Furniture (2013): 41–42, fig. 92–93.
Dennis Andrew Carr, Patricia E. Kane, and Jennifer N. Johnson, "Recent Discoveries in Rhode Island Furniture," The Magazine Antiques 181, no. 1 (January/February 2014): 219, fig. 3–3a.
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), 288–290, no. 54, fig. 1–2.