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Photo: Courtesy Northeast Auctions, Hampton and Portsmouth, N.H.
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Slant-front desk


Object number

RIF5674

Maker

Maker Unknown
Maker, possibly by Thomas Townsend, 1742?1827

Dimensions

42 39 1/2 23 in. (106.68 100.33 58.42 cm)

Date

1760–90

Current location

Unknown

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); mahogany (interior drawer linings and sides of prospect cabinet); pine (board under desk interior, back boards, drawer supports, and linings of exterior drawers); chestnut (vertical brace)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"1/1," "2/2," "3/3," and "4/4," in graphite, on interior corners of all drawers starting with "1" at proper left from corner and continuing counterclockwise; "R" and "L," in chalk, on interior bottoms of interior drawers on left and right respectively; vertical slash, in chalk, on interior centers of sides and backs of drawers in lower case; "R W Leith" [twentieth century script], in graphite, on many bottoms of interior drawers

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Louise Brayton Bowen (1875–1921), East Greenwich and Providence, Rhode Island; sold by her estate to the Isham family, Rhode Island, 1926; by descent to R. W. Leith; consigned by a descendant to Northeast Auctions, Hampton and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, March 9–10, 2013, lot 40

Associated names

Louise Brayton Bowen
Isham Family
R. W. Leith
Northeast Auctions

Construction

The single-board top is blind-dovetailed to the single-board case sides, which are fitted with brass carrying handles. The back consists of multiple horizontal boards, nailed with rosehead and other nails into rabbets in the top and case sides, and to the bottom. The two-board case bottom, flush with the bottom of the base molding, is dovetailed to the case sides. The hinged lid is assembled in the "breadboard" manner, having a large horizontal board tenoned into two vertical boards, the whole thumbmolded. There are numerous wood pins visible in the bottom edge of the horizontal board. It opens to reveal a concave-blocked and shell-carved prospect door, which conceals three concave-blocked small drawers, and is flanked on both sides by three quarter-spherically concave-blocked and valanced drawers above open compartments separated by scalloped partitions with convex-blocked small drawers below, and then by banks of three concave-blocked small drawers, the upper ones shell-carved, all above a molded base. The small drawer fronts are attached to their drawer sides with dovetail joints, having finely cut, slightly thick-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The tops of the drawer sides, slightly arched in front, flatten as they approach the flat-topped drawer backs. The flat bottoms are glued into the rabbets in their drawer fronts, sides and backs. The drawer front interiors bear short, prominent kerf marks. Within the case below is a vertical brace at the center of the backboards, and drawer supports with chamfered ends fixed to the case sides with rosehead nails. There are several rectangular horizontal glue blocks at the joint between the case bottom and the bottom rail, which is set into grooves in the case sides. The top rail, the stiles surrounding the thumbmolded lopers, and the drawer dividers below all attach to their respective vertical and horizontal supports with half-blind dovetail joints. The four lipped, thumb-molded, and graduated drawer fronts below are connected to their flat-topped drawer sides with dovetail joints, having finely cut, large, somewhat irregularly shaped and arranged pins, with half-pins above and below. The tops of the drawer sides are nearly flush with the tops of the drawer fronts, which have prominent kerf marks. The single-board drawer bottoms, parallel to their fronts, are chamfered at the sides, where they are secured with brads to full-depth runners, and at the front. They are nailed with brads to the bottoms of the drawer backs. The tops of the drawer sides, nearly flat in front, are more arched in profile as they approach, and eventually align with, the arched-top drawer backs. The base molding is applied with brads. The front ogee bracket feet are supported by carved vertical blocks attached directly to the case bottom and flanked by horizontal glue blocks. The rear feet are configured similarly, but for the backs, which are simple serpentine brackets set in grooves in the ogee side faces. Examined by P.E. Kane and W.S. Braznell, March 8, 2013; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

"Northeast Auctions advertisement," Antiques 180, no. 1 (January / February 2013): 92, 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), 287n5.
Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, N.H., Important Weekend Auction, sale cat. (March 9–10, 2013), 13, lot 40, ill.