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Bureau table

Object number



Maker, attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


34 × 36 1/2 × 19 1/4 in. (86.36 × 92.71 × 48.895 cm)



Current location



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


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (case back, case bottom, drawer supports, and dustboards); yellow poplar (drawer linings and sides and shelves in cupboard)






John Townsend (1732–1809), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his son Solomon Townsend (1776–1821), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his wife Ann Townsend (née Ann Pearce, 1786–1874), Newport, Rhode Island or their daughter, Phila Feke Bullock (née Townsend, 1812–1866); by descent to her daughter, Mary Dorr Sayles (1871–1946); by descent to her daughter, Martha Freeman Nicholson (née Sayles, 1896–1947); by descent to her son, William Sayles Nicholson; by descent to his wife, Emily G. F. Nicholson (1927–2003); consigned by her estate to Christie's, New York, January 15–16, 2004, lot 546

Associated names

Solomon Townsend
Ann (Pearce) Townsend
Phila Feke (Townsend) Bullock
Martha Freeman (Sayles) Nicholson
William Sayles Nicholson
Mary Dorr (Ames) Sayles
Emily G. F. Nicholson


The true top is placed above a subtop consisting of two longitudinal strips dovetailed to the case sides, with the dovetails exposed. The convex shells on the wide drawer are applied. The drawer runners are nailed to the sides of the case, and there is a full dustboard under the wide drawer. The feet are braced with three blocks shaped to follow the contours of the bracket and beveled on their inner edges, with the central vertical block applied last and standing above the horizontal blocks. The back bracket on the rear feet is diagonal and is butted against the side bracket, with a glue block added to secure the joint. On each drawer, the sides are finely dovetailed to the front and back; the bottoms are beveled on their front edge, let into a groove in the front, and nailed to the underside of the sides and back, with running strips applied. The top edges of the drawer sides are rounded, while the top edge of the back is flat. The back is two horizontal boards with a lap joint and nailed to rabbets in the top and sides and to the back edge of the case bottom. The ends of the sliding dovetail to attach the true top to the sub top are visible on the rear edge of the top.


Bureau tables attributed to John Townsend, include this example and another, RIF1431, whose cupboards are not recessed. Other bureau tables with recessed cupboards attributed to John Townsend include RIF 231, RIF 271, RIF661, RIF1430, RIF1784, RIF1785, and RIF3607.


Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Prints, and 20th Century Self-Taught and Outside Art, sale cat. (January 15–16, 2004), 294–95, lot 546, ill.
Lita Solis-Cohen, "Americana at Christie's," Maine Antique Digest (March 2004): 36–A, ill.
"Christie's Americana Garners $12.5 Million," Antiques and the Arts Weekly (January 23, 2004): 42, ill.
"Christie's advertisement," Antiques 165, no. 1 (January 2004): 62, 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), 280n2, 284n1.