Sack catalogue description: Original catalogue description (May 1973) – Chippendale secretary-desk with block and shell-carved doors, fashioned out of "plum pudding" mahogany, the desk section with blocked and shell-carved interior and scooped pigeonhole drawers with a sliding well in the fallboard; original pine tree brasses and side carrying handles, the top drawer has two sliding wooden bolts, ogee bracket feet; the upper section has two beautifully modeled block and shell-carved doors flanked by deeply inset fluted quarter columns, the doors enclose an intricate fitted interior of vertical and horizontal partitions, closed bonnet top with bold inner moldings and centered by a powerful fluted flame-carved finial. In seventy years of our career in American antiques, this is the first block and shell secretary we have had the privilege to own. Attributed to John Townsend. Updated catalogue description (1979) – The desk section with blocked and shell-carved interior and scooped pigeonhole drawers is closely related to the interior of a labeled John Townsend desk illustrated in American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, vol. 3, p. 792–793, pl. P3444; the top drawer also has two sliding wooden bolts, a feature seen on a labeled Townsend desk. The beauty of this superbly proportioned masterpiece is enhanced by a golden patina mellowing the drama of the plum pudding mottled figure. While the ten or eleven six-shell block and shell-carved secretaries take their place in the annals of American greatness, this two-shell creation (one of two or three known examples) has challenged the ingenuity and artistic skill of its creator. All the known and accepted Newport characteristics have been combined with a skill and imagination which adds so much individuality and personality to choice American pieces. The desk interior is identical to the labeled John Townsend example illustrated in American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, vol. 6, p. 9, pl. P3448; the use of mottled mahogany is often found in the best of the Townsend-Goddard school. The successful treatment of the two superbly carved shells capping the blocked and raised panels are framed with chamfered and fluted side columns to relieve a boxlike effect topped by the raised panels in a bonnet top centering a vigorous and bold center fluted bowl flame finial. Time and care have bestowed on this example a patination and character that makes this priceless example impossible to duplicate. Related objects: Book: American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1990), vol. 3, p. 792–793, pl. P3444; vol. 6, p. 9, pl. P3448. ----- Bibliography: Book: American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1990), vol. 4, p. 852–853 and 971–973, pl. P3755; vol. 6, p. 6–7, pl. P3755.
Chippendale secretary-desk with block and shell-carved doors
Decoration and ornament--Chippendale 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
Sack, May 1973; Sack, 1979 This information is taken from the Israel Sack Furniture Archive and may not reflect current scholarship.