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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund, 2001.7; photo by Erik Gould
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Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker John Carlile, Jr., American, 1762–1832, active 1781–1830


Desk: 43 1/2 42 1/2 22 1/2 in. (110.49 107.95 57.15 cm) Desk and bookcase: 95 1/2 42 1/2 22 1/2 in. (242.57 107.95 57.15 cm)


1785 (desk); 1795–1810 (bookcase)

Current location

Rhode Island School of Design Museum


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


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (bottoms of exterior drawers and backboards); pine (sides and backs of exterior drawers, backing of dividers for exterior drawers, drawer supports, blocks at lower front rail, board below desk interior, linings of interior drawers, glue blocks of feet, and brackets of rear feet)


"Providence, August 6th 1785 / John Carlisle, Jnr of / Said towne / joyner," in ink, on exterior back of lower prospect drawer of desk interior


“X,” in graphite, on exterior backs of exterior drawers; “X,” on some interior and exterior sides and backs of some of interior drawers; faint numbers [probably original], in graphite, on some interior sides, backs, and fronts of some interior drawers; numbers [later], in graphite, on some exterior surfaces of some interior drawers; "N 3 Top," "N 2 M," "N 1 B," in graphite, on prospect drawers [from top to bottom]; “3,” “2,” and “1” [with later numbers written over them in reverse order], in graphite, on dividers under prospect drawers [from top to bottom]


Harry LeBreton Gray (1875–1936), Rochester, New York. Andrew D. Wolfe (1922–1999), Pittsford, New York, by 1982; consigned by his estate to Sotheby's, New York, January 20, 2001, lot 135; sold to the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Associated names

Harry LeBreton Gray
Andrew D. Wolfe


The single-board top meets its single-board case sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins. A single-piece molding fixed to the front and side edges of the top encloses the bottom of a bookcase section of slightly later date. The hinged lid consists of a large horizontal board tenoned into narrow vertical boards; their joints at the top of the lid are mitered. It opens to an interior which centers a single-board, concave-blocked, shell-carved prospect door flanked by double-beaded stiles and opening to three concave-blocked small drawers. On either side are valanced compartments separated by serpentine uprights and flanked by banks of shell-carved and plain concave-blocked drawers, the whole supported by a molded rail above wider alternatively convex- and concave-blocked drawers, on a molded base. The small drawers? slightly kerf-marked drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arch-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints having finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above. The small-drawer bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are nailed with brads into rabbets there and at the drawer sides. There are half-round compass marks on the shell-carved drawer fronts. The case back consists of two horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with a variety of nails to rabbets in the back edges of the top and the single-board case sides, and directly to the single-board case bottom. The bottom meets the sides in dovetail joints with finely cut pins and is fixed with three nails through its front to the underside of the front rail. The toprail/writing surface and the drawer dividers below are half-blind dovetailed to case sides; the bottom rail, behind which are three long chamfered glue blocks, sits in grooves. Within the case, the two-piece longitudinal bottom board of the desk interior is set into grooves in the case sides. Below it, vertical loper stops are fixed to the case sides. These sit on the rabbeted back ends of the loper/upper drawer supports, whose front ends are tenoned into the upper drawer divider. Loper guides sit on top of the supports. Drawer supports with chamfered back ends are tenoned into the drawer dividers in front and fixed with rosehead nails to the case sides. The lipped, thumb-molded, kerf-marked, graduated drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, slightly arched drawer sides in dovetail joints having small, finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above. The tops of the drawer sides are marked with incised lines. The drawer bottoms are parallel to the front, where they are nailed into rabbets, and chamfered at the sides, where they fit into grooves, accompanied by two sets of applied runners. The flat tops of the drawer backs are rounded at the ends to align with the drawer-side tops. A single-piece base molding is fixed to the case sides and the bottom rail with wood-filled fasteners. The feet consist of large vertical blocks attached directly to the case bottoms, flanked by shaped horizontal blocks, the whole faced with ogee bracket feet. The backs of the rear feet are simple, straight-profiled trapezoidal brackets (the bottom portions replaced) set into grooves in the side-facing brackets and accompanied by longitudinal chamfered blocks. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, October 17, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.


Joseph K. Ott, "Lesser-Known Rhode Island Cabinetmakers: The Carliles, Holmes Weaver, Judson Blake, the Rawsons, and Thomas Davenport," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 1157, fig. 2–2a.
Wendy A. Cooper and Tara L. Gleason, "A Different Rhode Island Block-and-Shell Story: Providence Provenances and Pitch-Pediments," American Furniture (1999): 166, 200–2001, fig. 4, 27, 46, 58.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Folk Art, and Prints Including American Folk Art from the Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia, sale cat. (October 3, 2007), fig. 2.
Sotheby's, New York, Important American Furniture and Folk Art from the Estate of Andrew D. Wolfe, sale cat. (January 20, 2001), 68–69, lot 135, 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), 445, fig. 2.
William C. Ketchum Jr., American Cabinetmakers: Marked American Furniture, 1640-1940 (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 61.