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Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker, possibly by Job Townsend, Sr., 1699–1765
Maker, possibly by Job Townsend, Jr., 1726–1778


41 1/8 38 3/4 21 in. (104.46 98.43 53.34 cm)



Current location

Private Collection


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


Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (sides and backs of interior and exterior drawers, small rear board on bottom of third exterior drawer from top, backing of drawer dividers under upper two exterior drawers, drawer supports for middle two exterior drawers, support for well, vertical brace at back of case, and backboards of case); cedar (bottoms of interior drawers); pine (bottoms of exterior drawers, drawer runners, drawer guides, and drawer support for upper exterior drawer); chestnut (backing of drawer divider under third exterior drawer from top, blocks behind lopers, blocks at case front, supports for lower exterior drawer, glue blocks of feet, and rear foot brackets)




“1” and “2,” in graphite, on interior sides and back of valance drawers [from proper-right to proper-left]; a single gouge, on top surface of proper-right valance drawer front; two gouges, on top surface of proper-left valance drawer front;“1” through “4,” in graphite, on interior front, back, and sides of the lower interior desk drawers [from proper-right to proper-left]; “1” through “3,” in graphite, on interior fronts, backs, and sides of prospect drawers [from bottom to top]; a single gouge, on top surface of drawer fronts of lower interior drawers marked “1,” “2,” and “3” and prospect drawers marked “1” and “2;” three gouges on top surface of drawer front of prospect drawer marked “3;” “1” through “4,” in graphite, on interior backs of exterior drawers [top to bottom]; “1” through “3,” in graphite, on upper surfaces of drawer dividers [top to bottom]


Charles Edward Stearns (1920–2010), Billerica, Massachusetts; sold to private collection, 1992

Associated names

Charles Edward Stearns


The single-board top is half-blind dovetailed to the single-board case sides, with finely cut, narrow-necked pins. The case back consists of several horizontal half-lapped boards (one replaced) fixed with rosehead and other nails into rabbets in the top and sides, and directly to the case bottom. Near the center of the lower case-back are rosehead nails attaching it to a vertical batten inside the case, the end of which is revealed through the case bottom. This two-board case bottom is dovetailed to the case sides with thick-necked pins, and there are rosehead nails in the front of the forward case-bottom board fixing it to the bottom rail above. The hinged, lipped, thumb-molded lid is assembled in the "breadboard" manner, consisting of a single large horizontal board tenoned into two flanking vertical boards. The joints between them are visible when the lid is closed. The interior contains a concave-blocked and shell-carved prospect door flanked by beaded vertical dividers, then flanked by banks of three arched open compartments with scalloped dividers, over convex-blocked drawers. Double-beaded stiles separate these banks from valanced and quarter-spherically concave-blocked small drawers over open compartments and concave-blocked drawers. The small-drawer fronts meet their flush, flat-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The single-board drawer bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are glued into rabbets in the vertical elements above. The desk interior sits upon a molded base behind a sliding well-cover within a thumb-molded frame. In the case below the top rail and drawer dividers are half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. The bottom rail and the vertical divider at the half-height lopers fit into grooves in their neighboring members. Behind the bottom rail are three long rectangular glue blocks. Beside the bottom drawer?s supports are full-depth transverse blocks. The proper right block is missing. The bottom of the single-piece base molding is flush with the case bottom. It is secured to the case by brads and wood- filled fasteners. Full-depth loper and drawer supports are fixed to the case with rosehead nails. The front feet contain shaped horizontal blocks, attached directly to the case bottom. To the underside of these blocks, in each corner is attached a shaped, vertical block; the whole is faced with ogee brackets. The rear feet are configured differently, having vertical rectangular blocks in each corner, to which are fixed shaped horizontal blocks, also fixed to the case bottom. The side brackets are ogee-shaped; the back brackets are straight scrolling boards, set into grooves in the inside face of the outer bracket. The back edge of the rear feet?s side brackets are ogee-shaped. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, March 6, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

See also


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), 204n7.