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Photo: Courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Bayou Bend Collection, Gift of Miss Ima Hogg, B.69.91
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Bureau table


Object number

RIF231

Maker

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

Dimensions

34 1/2 × 39 1/4 × 22 in. (87.63 × 99.695 × 55.88 cm)

Date

1760–80

Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); chestnut (interior framing, backboard, and bottom); yellow poplar (drawer sides, backs, and bottoms and drawer runners)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“A,” in graphite, on exterior back of long drawer; crisscrossed lines, in graphite, on interior back of proper-right upper drawer; “A,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-right middle drawer; "Eliza Wightman," stamped in ink, on exterior back and right side of proper-right middle drawer; illegible letter [E?], in graphite, on exterior back of proper-right lower drawer; “C,” in graphite, on exterior back of proper-right lower drawer; illegible graphite, on interior back of proper-right lower drawer; loop, in graphite, on underside of divider under proper-right middle drawer; “A” and “B,” in graphite, on tops of dividers under upper two proper-right drawers; “X,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left top drawer; illegible graphite, on interior bottom of proper-left middle drawer; “///,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left middle drawer; “J” or “I,” in graphite, on interior bottom of proper-left lower drawer; “D,” in graphite, on top of divider under proper-left middle drawer

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Probably made for Samuel Vernon (1711–1792), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his daughter, Mrs. Valentine Wightman (née Elizabeth Vernon, 1738–1812); probably by descent to her daughter, Mary Wightman (1773–1840); by descent to her cousin, William Vernon (1788–1867); by descent to his daughter, Mrs. Robert M. Oliphant (née Ann Vernon, born 1832); by descent to her daughter, Mrs. George Casper Kellogg (née Grace Oliphant, died 1950); sold by her estate to Israel Sack, Inc., New York, 1950; sold to Ima Hogg (1882–1975), Houston, 1950; gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1969

Associated names

Samuel Vernon
Elizabeth Vernon Wightman
Mary Wightman
William Vernon
Ann Vernon Oliphant
Grace Oliphant Kellogg
Israel Sack, Inc.
Ima Hogg

Construction

The rectangular, oblong, single-board top is molded at its front and side edges and square at its back edge, where it slightly overhangs the case below. The beaded cove molding beneath it, fixed to the case by wood-filled fasteners, extends beyond the case back to the edge of the overhanging top and returns upon itself. The top is joined by means of transverse keyways to two longitudinal battens at its underside. These battens are dovetailed to the tops of the single-board case sides. The case back consists of three horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with rosehead and other nails to the back edge of the rear longitudinal batten, to rabbets in the case sides, to the back edge of the case bottom and to interior positions. Some nail holes are now empty. Tip bars are fixed with rosehead nails to the case sides directly below the longitudinal battens. Within the two bands of drawers below are drawer supports fixed to the case sides and intermediate walls with rosehead nails, and drawer stops glued and nailed into each rear corner. The dustboard below the frieze drawer is full-depth and full-width, providing a ceiling for both the central cupboard and the open recessed area in front of it. The top rail, drawer dividers, and bottom rails all meet their case sides in half-blind dovetail joints. The horizontal cockbeading is integral with each drawer divider, including the cockbeading at the bottom of the upper drawer divider spanning the recessed section. Vertical cockbeading is applied to the case sides with glue and brads. The convex, flanking carved shells of the blockfronted frieze drawers are applied; the concave center shell is carved from the solid. The convex-blocked graduated small-drawer fronts? inside faces are flat. They meet their slightly shorter arch-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The single-board small-drawer bottoms are parallel to the front where they are chamfered to fit into grooves. They are full-width and chamfered at the sides, where runners are nailed to them with brads, and are fixed with brads to the bottoms of the flat-topped drawer backs. The banks of graduated small drawers flank a recessed cupboard with a cockbeaded surround enclosing a single-piece, concave-blocked, shell-carved door, opening to a single-shelved interior. The cockbeading is nailed with brads to the medial case sides, the recessed bottom rail, and the ceiling of the recessed area. A horizontal door-stop is fixed to the back of the upper portion of cockbeading. A single-piece base molding is fixed to the case with wood-filled fasteners and slightly overhangs the case back. The single-board case bottom is joined to the case sides by dovetail joints having thick-necked pins of varying configuration and by rosehead nails at its perimeter. Brads in the case bottom (some missing) also fix the case bottom to the underside of the partitions above. The central recessed portion of the case bottom is prominently scribe-lined in part for the layout of a quarter round molding, aligning with the upper portion of the ogee bracket faces of the feet, and fixed with rosehead nails to the underside of the base moldings at the central recessed area and between the outer bracket feet. The feet consist of shaped horizontal blocks attached to the case bottom, and mitered at each corner, to which are attached shaped vertical blocks, the whole faced with ogee (and, at the front faces on the front feet, blocked and scroll-carved) brackets, some nailed from below to the base molding above. The rear-facing brackets of the back feet are simple straight-profiled ogee brackets, to the backs of which are attached ogee-shaped vertical blocks aligning with the back of the side-facing outer brackets? rear faces. Examined by P. E. Kane, March 13, 2004, and by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, August 11, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Notes

Other bureau tables attributed to John Townsend include RIF 271, RIF 661, RIF1430, RIF1784, RIF1785, and RIF3607. A variation, also attributed to John Townsend, has a cupboard that is not recessed, see RIF210 and RIF 1431.

Bibliography

Wendy A. Cooper, In Praise of America: American Decorative Arts, 1650–1830, Fifty Years of Discovery since the 1929 Girl Scouts Loan Exhibition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), 177, 200, Pl. 34.
Wendy A. Cooper, "In Praise of America," Antiques 117, no. 3 (March 1980): 177, 200, pl. 34, ill.
David B. Warren, "Ima Hogg, Collector," Antiques 121, no. 1 (January 1982): 235, fig. 12.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 143, fig. 3.82, a, b.
David B. Warren et al., American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1998), 87-88, no. F140, ill.
Gerald W. R. Ward, "American's Contribution to Craftsmanship: The Exaltation and Interpretation of Newport Furniture," American Furniture (1999): 234, fig. 7.
Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 129, 131, no. 26, ill.