image of object
Photo: Courtesy Robert Lionetti, Jewett City, Conn.
Click the image to enlarge

Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker, possibly by John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809
Maker, possibly by Christopher Townsend, 1701–1787
Maker, possibly by Jonathan Townsend, 1745–1772


42 41 24 in. (106.68 104.14 60.96 cm) Writing height: 31 1/2 in. (80.01 cm)



Current location

Private Collection


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


Mahogany (primary); mahogany (linings of the interior drawers); chestnut (drawer dividers, vertical brace, back boards, bottom boards, glue blocks, exterior drawer linings); yellow poplar (drawer supports)


Christie's, New York, January 21, 2000, lot 147A (not entered in the catalogue, but listed in the Auction Results)

Associated names



The single-board top meets the single-board case sides in dovetail joints having narrow-necked, finely cut pins with half-pins in front. The hinged, molded lid consists of a large, horizontal board tenoned into flanking narrow vertical boards; the joints between them are visible at the top and bottom of the lid. The interior centers a concave blocks and shell-carved prospect door opening to three concave-blocked small drawers, concealing three ?secret? drawers, the whole planked by beaded stiles. The prospect area is flanked by quarter-spherically concave-blocked, valanced, and beaded small drawers above open compartments separated by scrolling uprights, over convex-blocked drawers, in turn flanked by beaded stiles and banks of three convex-blocked small drawers, the upper ones shell-carved, all on an ogee-molded, convex- and concave-blocked base. The small concave-blocked small-drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arched-top drawer sides in dovetail joints having very finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The convex-blocked small drawers have dovetail joints with notably shorter pins and thicker necks. The small-drawer bottoms, perpendicular to the fronts, are glued into rabbets in the elements above. The bank of drawers behind the prospect door comprise a removable block, whose walls, ceiling, and floor meet in dovetail joints having wide, shallow pins. The block sides out to reveal three small ?secret? drawers, whose walls are similarly joined, whose bottoms are glued into rabbets in the elements above, and whose fronts are fitted with fabric pulls. Beneath the fitted interior is a full-width longitudinal board (the front of which is the blocked and molded base of the interior) supported by transverse flanking boards supported by glue blocks on the face of a horizontal batten at the top of the case interior and loper stops nailed with brads to the case sides. These transverse boards are tenoned into a full-width longitudinal board in front, which is dovetailed to the case sides. The inside edges of the transverse board are routed to accommodate a sliding well-cover, in the top of which is carved a crescent-shaped finger-pull. The inside edges of all four boards, forming a frame around the well-cover, are thumb-molded. The case back consists of three horizontal, half-lapped boards nailed with brads into rabbets in the top and sides. The bottom board is not nailed to the case bottom. An assortment of nails in the backboards attach them to a vertical batten at the mid-point of the case interior and to the back edges of the interior?s stiles. The two-board case bottom meets the case sides in dovetail joints having large, thick-necked pins. There are nails in the front of the case bottom joining it to the bottom rail above. Within the case, drawer supports, to which are glued later horizontal drawer stops, are nailed with brads to the case sides. There are three large horizontal rectangular glue blocks behind the bottom rail. The uprights beside the half-height lopers are dovetailed to the top rail above and the drawer divider below. The blocks below the lopers are glued in place, and the drawer dividers are dovetailed to the case sides. The graduated, lipped, thumb-molded drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arched-top sides in dovetail joints having finely cut narrow necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The multi-board, full-width drawer bottoms are chamfered at the front, where they are nailed with brads into rabbets, and at the sides, where their connection to the bottom of the drawer sides is obscured by runners. The drawer bottoms are nailed with brads to the drawer backs, whose flat tops are rounded at the ends to align with the drawer sides? arched tops. The feet consist of shaped, mitered horizontal blocks, fixed to the case bottom, below which is a shaped vertical block, the whole faced with ogee bracket feet. The rear faces of the back feet are simple, straight-sided trapezoidal brackets set into grooves in the side-facing ogee brackets. The rear facing edges of the back feet?s side brackets extend beyond the plane of the case back, as do the conformingly shaped blocks nailed to the outside faces of the back feet?s rear brackets. Some elements of the feet are replaced. Examined by P.E. Kane, August 24, 2017; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.


Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Silver, Prints, Folk Art, and Decorative Arts, sale cat. (January 21, 2000), Auction Results, lot 147A.