Newport, Newport county, Rhode Island, United States ca. 1765–1785
113 x 42 1/2 x 25 in.
Mahogany (primary); cherry, chestnut, white pine (secondary)
YUAG catalogue description: Blockfront mahogany desk and bookcase with six carved shells, the blocking on the drawer fronts continuing through the concave and convex carved shells on the slant top of the desk, and on the doors of the bookcase; fluted quarter-columns and scrolled pediment with urn-shaped finials frame the façade, representing a pinnacle of American craftsmanship. By descent from Nicholas Brown of Providence, Rhode Island. The Browns were a founding family of Rhode Island, Nicholas Brown being an original signatory of the College of Rhode Island, later renamed Brown University for benefactor Nicholas Brown, Jr. This desk and bookcase descended directly in the family of Nicholas Brown, and was sold by a descendant in 1989 to raise money to preserve the Nightingale-Brown House on Benefit Street in Providence. The desk was purchased by Harold Sack for the Texas collector Robert Bass for the price of $12.1 million dollars, which remains the world record price for a piece of American furniture sold at auction. One of nine known examples, this blockfront desk and bookcase is associated with the Townsend-Goddard family of cabinetmakers in Newport, and is attributed to John Goddard; similar examples are in the collection of the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (object 04.042) and the Yale University Art Gallery (object 1940.320). The desk exemplifies Townsend-Goddard superb craftsmanship in the delicate dovetailed construction of the drawers; their mastery of proportions is also evident in the piece’s well-balanced broken scroll pediment, alternating convex and concave surfaces and integrated flame finials. Related objects: Website: http://risdmuseum.org/art_design/objects/685_desk_and_bookcase (accessed December 10, 2013). Website: http://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/desk-and-bookcase-0 (accessed December 10, 2013). ----- Bibliography: Book: American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1990), vol. 9, p. 2444, pl. P6197. Book: Albert Sack, The New Fine Points of Furniture: Early American (New York: Crown Publishers, 1993), pp. 168–169. Book: Edward Wenham, The Collector's Guide to Furniture Design (New York: Collectors Press, 1928), p. 303, fig. 701. Book: Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), pp. 328–329, pl. 1, fig. 8.17, 8.17 a–c. Journal/Periodical: Rhode Island School of Design Bulletin 15, no. 2 (April 1927): p. 8, fig. 6. Journal/Periodical: Brock Jobe, "The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon," American Furniture (2001): p. 130, fig. 13–14. Auction catalogue: Christie's, New York, The Magnificent Nicholas Brown Desk and Bookcase, sale cat. (June 3, 1989), pp. 11–23, lot 100. Auction catalogue: Sotheby's, New York, Property of the Goddard Family, sale cat. (January 22, 2005), p. 29, 34, fig. 5. Website: http://rifa.art.yale.edu/detail.htm?id=107471&type=0 (accessed December 10, 2013).
Queen Anne mahogany secretary
Decoration and ornament--Queen Anne style Furniture--United States
desks and bookcases (AAT) secretaries (furniture) (AAT)
Image Physical Object
Furnishings & Decorative Arts Prints & Photographs
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Israel Sack, Inc., Archive
New York, New York, United States 1957–1990
YUAG, 2013 This information is compiled from current scholarship in reference to materials in the Israel Sack Furniture Archive.