image of object
Photo: Courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Bayou Bend Collection, Gift of Miss Ima Hogg
Click the image to enlarge

Bureau table


Object number

RIF234

Maker

Maker, probably by Thomas Spencer, 1752?1840

Dimensions

31 1/2 × 36 3/4 × 20 3/4 in. (80.01 × 93.345 × 52.705 cm)

Date

1780–85

Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Geography

Probably made in Providence, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)

Medium

Mahogany [genus Cedrela] (writing board frame and primary); eastern white pine (later foot blocks and drawer supports); soft maple (cabinet partitions, panel beneath top drawer, rear rail support for top drawer); chestnut (drawer sides and bottoms); and yellow poplar (secondary)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

“A,” in graphite, on interior back of top drawer; "Tos. Spencer 1764 / Reichhold & Knoblock 1876 Repaired," in graphite, on exterior back of top drawer; letter [probably “A”], in graphite, on top of divider under top drawer; “1,” in graphite, on front interior sides of small proper-right drawers; “B 1,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-right middle drawer; “C 1,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-right bottom drawer; “2,” in graphite, on front interior sides of small proper-left drawers; “B 2,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left middle drawer; “C 2,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left lower drawer; “C” or “C 2,” in graphite, on front rail under proper-left lower drawer; later numbers [probably 19th century], in graphite, on small drawers and on drawer dividers; "A. W. Mende 1943," inscribed, on a bottom drawer

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

By tradition, John Brown (1736–1803), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his daughter, Mrs. John Francis (née Abigail Brown, born 1766); by descent to her son, John Brown Francis (1791–1864); by descent to his daughter, Mrs. Marshall Woods (née Ann Francis, 1828–1896); by descent to her daughter, Mrs. Samuel Abbot (née Abby Woods, 1849–1895); by descent to her daughter, Mrs. John O. Ames (née Madeleine Abbot,1876–1963); by descent to her sister, Mrs. Charles Kilvert, Sr., (née Anne Abbot, 1878–1954); by descent to her son, Charles A. Kilvert, Jr. (1918–2000); consigned to Christie's, New York, June 12, 1982, lot 198; sold to Marian M. Britton (1910–1998) and James L. Britton, Jr. (1908–1988), Houston; given to Bayou Bend, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1992

Associated names

John Brown
Abby Brown Francis
John Brown Francis
Ann Francis Woods
Abby Woods Abbot
Madeleine Abbot Ames
Ann Abbot Kilvert
Charles A. Kilvert , Jr.
Christie's
James L. Britton, Jr.
Marian M. Britton

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 with wood-filled fasteners, extends beyond the case back to the edge of the overhanging top and returns upon itself. Under the top are two longitudinal boards dovetailed to the tops of the case sides. The top is attached to these boards by rosehead nails through the boards? undersides. There are multiple rectilinear longitudinal glue blocks at the joints between the top and the longitudinal boards. Tip bars under the longitudinal boards are fixed with rosehead nails to the case sides. The horizontal boards of the case back are fixed with a variety of nails into rabbets in the case sides. The top rail meets the case sides in half-blind dovetail joints. In its front face are wood-filled fasteners, and its cockbeading is fixed with brads. Within the banks of drawers below are drawer supports (some turned) nailed to the sides with rosehead and other nails. The drawer dividers, half-blind dovetailed to the case sides, are integrally cockbeaded; the vertical cockbeading is held in with brads and glue. The upper, continuous drawer divider has no cockbeading on its bottom edge, and is nailed from above into the tops of the walls between the banks of drawers. The upper drawer divider/dust board is not full width; the single-board ceiling of the central cupboard is nailed with brads to the tops of the cupboard?s walls. The convex, flanking carved shells of the blockfronted frieze drawer are applied; the convex center shell is carved from the solid. The front?s inside face is routed to receive some of the drawer?s partitions. It is filled with multiple small compartments and a hinged, baize-lined writing surface. The frieze drawer and lower drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arch-topped sides in dovetail joints with finely cut pins of varying configuration, with half-pins above and below. The small-drawer fronts are prominently kerf-marked, their sides slightly scribe-lined. Their inside faces are each cut out to receive a lock. The two-board frieze-drawer bottom, rather thick and parallel to the front, is deeply chamfered at the front and sides, where it fits into grooves. The small-drawer bottoms, are similarly heavy and similarly joined to their fronts and sides, and nailed with brads to their drawer backs, the tops of which have rounded back edges. All the drawer sides are fitted with runners. There are nails in the tops of the bottom rails in each bank of drawers, and in the rail under the central cupboard. The cupboard?s door consists of beaded rails tenoned and wood-pinned to beaded stiles, enclosing a single-piece fielded panel. The door is surrounded by a cockbeaded edge held on with glue and nails. A single-piece base molding is fixed to the case with wood-filled fasteners and is toenailed at its back edge into the case sides. The single-board case bottom meets the case sides in dovetail joints having large, wide-necked pins. Nails joining the bottom board to the interior partitions are laid out with scribe lines. At the case bottom?s rear edge is a longitudinal board across the width of the back, also nailed to the interior partitions. The feet consist of shaped horizontal blocks attached to the case bottom?some butted, some mitered together, all replaced?to which are attached vertical triangular blocks, the whole faced with ogee (and at the forward faces of the front feet, blocked and scroll-carved) brackets. The rear-facing brackets of the back feet are simple straight-profiled, slightly serpentine brackets set into grooves in the inside of the rear feet?s outer brackets. At the outside corner of the joint between the rear-facing and side-facing brackets of the proper left rear foot is a vertical block. Two round wood pins, probably old repairs, are visible?one in the front of the drawer divider under the frieze drawer below the concave shell, and one in the top of the drawer divider between the two lower proper right small drawers. Examined by P. E. Kane, March 2004, and by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, August 11, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

"Christie's advertisement," Antiques 121, no. 6 (June 1982): 1233, ill.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Silver, and Decorative Arts, sale cat. (June 12, 1982), 94–95, lot 198, ill.
David B. Warren, "The Reopening of the Bayou Bend in Houston, Texas," Antiques 144, no. 3 (September 1993): 336, ill.
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), 86-87, no. F139, 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), 360, no. 75, fig. 2.