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Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker, possibly by John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


42 1/4 40 1/2 23 1/2 in. (107.315 102.87 59.69 cm)



Current location



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


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (board beneath the interior drawers, drawer divider backing, drawer supports, back boards, bottom board, and glue blocks); eastern white pine (left loper support); yellow poplar (back board, stops for loper, and exterior drawer linings); birch (block at center top of back); mahogany (interior drawer linings)




"Bottom," in graphite, on underside of case; "C," in graphite, on interior back board behind vertical brace and "B," in graphite, on back board above it; "A," "B," "C," and "D," in graphite, on exterior backs of exterior drawers and double loops, in chalk, on underside of those drawers at center front; "A" through "F," in graphite, on interior backs and interior bottoms of valance drawers from proper right to proper left; "A," in graphite, on interior bottom of each drawer in proper right tier of interior drawers; "A" and "B," in graphite, on interior bottoms of long interior drawers; "C," in graphite, on interior bottom of lowest drawer behind prospect door and illegible graphite on two drawers above it; "B," in graphite, on interior bottom of each drawer in proper left tier of interior drawers; double loops, in graphite, on underside near front of each interior drawer


Isaac Sherman (1736–1817), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his son Robert Sherman (1769–1854); by descent to his son George Sherman (1797–1879); by descent to his daughter Caroline Matilda Sherman (born 1837); by descent to her son Alvin Greenwood King; by descent to his son Willard Alvin King; sold to Israel Sack, Inc., 1973; sold to Ann (1917–1999) and Philip Holzer (1919–2011), Great Neck, New York, 1973; consigned to Sotheby's, New York, January 20–21, 2012, lot 214. Sotheby's, New York, January 24–25, 2014, lot 270

Associated names

Isaac Sherman
Robert Sherman
George Sherman
Caroline Matilda Sherman
Alvin Greenwood King
Willard Alvin King
Israel Sack, Inc.
Philip Holzer
Ann Holzer


The single-board top is attached to the single-board case sides with half-blind dovetails. The case back consists of three horizontal half-lapped boards stabilized with an interior vertical brace nailed to the boards and tenoned through the bottom board. The two-board case bottom is dovetailed to the case sides and slightly shy of the bottom of the base molding. The hinged lid consists of two vertical boards centering a large horizontal board supported, when open, by two half-height thumb-molded lopers. The stiles enclosing the lopers are dovetailed into the adjacent drawer dividers. The tenons of the horizontal board of the lid are visible on the underside of the vertical boards. The case contains four thumb-molded and graduated drawers. The tops of the drawer sides are rounded and flush with the drawer fronts, which bear short kerf marks. The tops of the drawer backs are square. The three-board drawer bottoms run perpendicular to the drawer fronts and are attached to the drawer fronts and backs with brads; the drawer sides have applied running strips. The case contains drawer supports attached to the sides with brads. The supports are chamfered to the rear and not attached to the backboard. There are no drawer stops. The upper rail and drawer dividers are attached to the case sides with half-blind dovetails. The lower rail fits into grooves in the case sides. A small convex molding runs between the ogee bracket feet just below the base. Behind the bracket feet are shaped, mitered blocks attached to the case bottom, below which are shaped vertical blocks. The back bracket feet are simply incurvate and set into grooves in the rear side bracket feet. The desk interior consists of a well with sliding lid opening to the upper case drawer, a shell-carved concave-blocked prospect drawer concealing three small drawers, flanked by three open compartment with "secret" valance drawers above shaped partitions and single concave-blocked drawers below, flanked in turn by three concave-blocked drawers, the upper ones shell-carved. The interior drawers have rounded-top drawer sides flush with their fronts and square-top drawer backs, thin-necked dovetails with half-pins above and below, and drawer bottoms glued into rabbets in their front, sides, and backs. Examined by P. E. Kane and W. S. Braznell, January 20, 2012; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.


Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 170, fig. 3.93.
Philip Holzer, Philip and Ann Holzer Collection (n.p.: privately printed, 1990), 70–73, no. 25, fig. 25.1–25.5.
American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–89), vol. 4, p. 958, no. P3726, ill.
Sotheby's, New York, Important Americana: Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Porcelain, Prints, and Carpets, sale cat. (January 20–21, 2012), 154–155, lot 214.
Lita Solis-Cohen, "Americana Week Auction at Sotheby's," Maine Antique Digest (April 2012): 38-A.
Sotheby's, New York, Important Americana: Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Chinese Export Porcelain, Prints, and Carpets, sale cat. (January 24–25, 2014), 149, lot 270.