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Photo: Rhode Island Furniture Archive, courtesy Preservation Society of Newport County, R.I., 1784, HH 3.3
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Slant-front desk


Object number

RIF462

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

43 1/2 38 1/4 21 3/4 in. (110.49 97.155 55.245 cm)

Date

1750–60

Current location

Preservation Society of Newport County

Geography

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

Medium

Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (drawer linings, back and bottom boards of case, and board under desk interior); pine(?) (support for lopers)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"Wm. Earnest Goffe / Please deliver to Wm. E. Goffe the / old mahogany desk that you have belonging to me & / sent to you for repairs. / Wm. E. Goffe pays all repairs. / Chris Townsend, Newport, R.I. 19 May 1860," written in ink on a paper label glued to the exterior side of one of the document drawers; “1” and “2,” in graphite, on exterior bottoms of proper-right and proper-left interior desk drawers; “1,” in graphite, on exterior bottom of one of interior desk drawers flanking prospect door; “1,” in graphite, on proper-left exterior side of document drawer without label

Style

Queen Anne

Provenance

Christopher Townsend (died 1881), Newport, Rhode Island, by 1860. John S. Walton, Inc., New York; sold to the Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, by 1965

Associated names

Christopher Townsend
John S. Walton, Inc.

Construction

The top, largely obscured under a later board, is blind dovetailed to the two-board case sides. The hinged, lipped, and thumb-molded lid consist of a large horizontal board tenoned into flanking vertical rails. The tenons are visible at the bottom and top of the lid when it is closed. The interior includes an arch-inlaid prospect door flanked by split-baluster-fronted document drawers. On either side are pairs of arch-valanced open compartments separated by scalloped uprights above concave serpentine-blocked and beaded small drawers, the whole raised on a molded base, and flanked by ressaulted scalloped uprights and open compartments separated by incurvate shelves above concave serpentine-blocked and beaded small drawers. The document-drawer sides are nailed with brads into rabbets in the drawer fronts and directly into the drawer backs, the tops of which, like the neighboring portions of the drawer sides, are rounded. The bottoms are dovetailed to the drawer fronts and the drawer backs and glued to the sides. The small-drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter flat-topped sides in dovetail joints having large tails with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. Their bottoms are perpendicular to the fronts and glued into rabbets in the bottom of the elements above; some are nailed with brads to the drawer fronts. The top rail and drawer dividers of the case are half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. The vertical uprights at the lopers also meet their neighboring elements in dovetail joints. The bottom rail is set into grooves in the case sides. Within the case, loper supports are fixed with rosehead nails to the case sides and the upper drawer support is tenoned into the back of the upper drawer divider. The loper shafts are dovetailed to the operating top portion of their molded fronts. The lipped, thumb-molded exterior drawer fronts meet this slightly shorter, flat-topped sides in dovetail joints having large, finely cut, thick-necked pins with half-pins above and below. The single-board drawer bottoms are parallel to the fronts, where they are nailed with brads, and chamfered at the sides, where they fit into grooves in the full-depth sides. Later runners are applied with glue. Some stripes at the back of the drawer bottoms fill gaps caused by shrinkage; the bottoms were formerly fixed to the backs with still extant roseheads nails. The short cabriole legs, accompanied by shaped brackets, end in shod pad feet. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, September 16, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 112–113, no. 70, ill.