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Desks and Secretaires

Goddard Slant-Front Desk 
mahogany, 42"h, 43"w, 25"d 

Most Newport cabinetmakers made desks, but this example  replicates exactly a very rare signed Goddard original in a private collection. The case has four full-width drawers and the fall front opens to reveal a fully-blocked Newport interior. There are 21 drawers in total, each fully hand dovetailed in the exact manner of the original. The case is also fully dovetailed with half-blind dovetails visible on the top. The brasses are hand cast to replicate those of the original.

The relatively plain exterior of this desk makes it ideal to be made in a figured wood. It is shown here and below in figured mahogany and figured maple.

  John Townsend Block-Front Desk
mahogany, 42"h, 45½"w, 24½"d

The Newport block-front desk as built by John Townsend in 1765. Three Newport shells with John Townsend's bold and detailed style of carving adorn the lid.  The interior is typical of Newport desks of the period with blocked drawer fronts, carved flanking drawers, and the Newport shell carving on the central prospect door. The writing surface features a well, a sliding panel that opens to allow access into the top drawer without having to close the lid.

similar example: Moses p. 131, Sack p. 161

  Goddard Block-Front Desk
mahogany, 41½h, 45"w, 25"d

A Newport block-front desk in the manner of John Goddard and his sons. Like the Townsend block-front desk it has concave and convex shells on the lid.  The interior follows the Newport style of he period and includes the sliding well panel for access to the top drawer. The scrolls on the ogee feet terminate the convex blocking and feature the foliate carving of the Rhode Island School of Design's Lisle secretaire.

similar example: Greene p. 264

 

John Townsend Kneehole Desk
mahogany, 34"h, 36"w, 20½"d

The Newport block-front kneehole with the rare feature of a concealed writing desk. The three-shell panel pulls forward and then folds down to reveal a blocked interior with five drawers and five compartments.  The detailed shells and scrolled ogee feet are signature details of John Townsend.

similar example: Moses p. 160

  Nicholas Brown Six-Shell Secretaire
mahogany, 113"h, 43"w, 25"d

The best known of the nine Newport-style secretaires, it is not only the tallest at nearly nine and a half feet, but it also the holds the record for the highest price paid for American furniture at $12.1 million dollars.  The Nicholas Brown secretaire is closely related to the examples at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Yale University Art Gallery in the design of its open pediment with cyma-curve crown moldings ending in circular foliate carvings.  Like the other secretaires, the three bookcase doors open as a single door on one side and a bi-fold door on the other.  The base follows the conventional design of Newport block-front desks of the period.

similar example: Sack p.168, Moses p. 328

  John Townsend Six-Shell Secretaire
mahogany, 101"h, 45½"w, 24½"d

This example was designed in conjunction with Michael Moses in the manner of John Townsend.  Since none of the nine extant examples of Newport block-front secretaires are by Townsend, this design draws on his documented works to create a piece with accurate Townsend proportions, carving, and construction details.  It features an open pediment, triple finials on fluted plinths, fluted quarter columns on the upper case, and John Townsend Newport shells throughout.

  Boston Bombé Secretaire
mahogany, 100"h, 46"w, 23"d

A monumental secretaire in the Boston bombé style.  The subset of American secretaires in this style is exceptionally small, and those with a serpentine front are even more rare.  As the six-shell secretaire was the pinnacle of the cabinetmakers' art in Newport, so was the bombé secretaire in Boston. The base stands on bold Boston ball and claw feet with knobbed knuckles and back-swept side talons. The one-board sides are carved from solid three-inch mahogany, as are the serpentine drawer fronts.  The interior is of the standard Boston style with blocked prospect door and flanking drawers with fan carvings.  The upper case features scrolled raised panel doors flanked by fluted pilasters.  The pediment has highly detailed molding with dentils.  The central  flame and urn finial is perched on an ogee-molded plinth. The upper case interior has 14 compartments, 10 drawers, 2 adjustable shelves, and candle slides. 35 drawers in total, several of which are well concealed.