image of object
From: Gronning and Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition,"American Furniture(2013):36
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Object number



Maker John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


27 3/4 25 7/8 12 7/8 in. (70.485 65.723 32.703 cm)


probably 1755

Current location

Private Collection


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


Mahogany (primary); mahogany (drawer linings); white pine (case bottom and back)


"John Townsend / Newport," in graphite, on bottom board and on outside of bottom left-hand drawer


"A," "B," "C," and "D," in graphite, on backs of drawers in proper right compartment and "E," "F," "G," and "H," in graphite, on backs of drawers in proper left compartment


Frederick Howard Reed, England; consigned by his executor Charles Howard Reed, to Christie, Manson and Wood, Ltd., London, November 16, 1955, lot 235; sold to John S. Walton, New York; sold to Polly Mariner Stone (1898–1995) and Stanley Stone (1896–1987), Fox Point, Wisconsin; bequeathed by Stanley Stone to The Chipstone Foundation, Fox Point, Wisconsin, 1987; consigned to Christie's, New York, January 19, 21 and 23, 2012, lot 113

Associated names

The Chipstone Foundation
Christie, Manson & Woods, Ltd.
Stanley Stone
Frederick Howard Reed
John S. Walton, Inc.
Polly Mariner Stone


The single-board top is joined to the case sides by means of half-blind dovetails. The case comprises two banks of four convex-blocked drawers (the upper shell carved) centering a shell-carved, convex-blocked prospect door. The inner edge of the case frame is cock-beaded, as are the medial stiles, which fit into grooves in the case top. The drawer dividers are simple, slender cock-beaded boards which fit into V-shaped grooves in the case sides and stiles. The drawer sides are rounded and shy of the drawer fronts. The dovetails are small and neat, with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The prospect door encloses three arched document compartments separated by scrolling dividers above a horizontal divider with scrolling front profile, the floor of which is similarly scrolled. There are two valanced document compartments below, separated by a scroll-fronted divider above a single concave-blocked small drawer. The front of the molded base reflects the blocking of the drawers above. The sides of the base are straight. There are rosehead nails in the underside of the front base molding (which is flush with the single board case bottom) which fasten it to the stiles above. The case bottom is dovetailed to the case sides. Each turned bun foot (comprising a footed, compressed bulb below an elongated spool) is attached to the case by means of a dowel through a hole in a shaped block and the bottom board above. Examined by P. E. Kane and W. S. Braznell, January 20, 2012; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.


The shells with fleur-de-lis centers on this document chest are related to those of the chest of drawers RIF664.


Morrison H. Heckscher, "John Townsend's Block-and-Shell Furniture," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 1144, ill.
Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, American Furniture at Chipstone (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), 74–77, no. 34, ill.
Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, "Living with Antiques: Chipstone near Milwaukee," Antiques 133, no. 5 (May 1988): 1151, ill.
Stanley Stone, "Rhode Island Furniture at Chipstone, Part II," Antiques 91, no. 4 (April 1967): 511, ill.
Stanley Stone, "Documented Newport Furniture," Antiques 103, no. 2 (February 1973): 321, fig. 3, 4.
Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 120–21, 169, no. 75, ill.
"Christie, Manson and Woods, Ltd. advertisement," Antiques 68, no. 4 (October 1955): 385, ill.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 106, no. 16, ill.
"International Saleroom, 1956-1957," Connoisseur Year Book (1957): 110, fig. 15.
Sotheby's, New York, The Exceptional Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Arnold Mahogany High Chest, sale cat. (January 21, 2012), 13, fig. 4.
Christie's New York, New York, Important American Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, and Chinese Export, sale cat. (January 19–20 and 23, 2012), 94–95, lot 113.
Erik K. Gronning and Amy Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition," American Furniture (2013): 35–36, fig. 80–82.
Ann Smart Martin, Makers and Users: American Decorative Arts, 1630–1820, from the Chipstone Collection, exh. cat. (Madison, Wis.: Elvehjem Museum of Art, 1999), 63, no. 76, p.16, fig. 21.
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), 453, 455n11.
William C. Ketchum Jr., American Cabinetmakers: Marked American Furniture, 1640-1940 (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 343.