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Desk

1765-1800
Origin: America, Massachusetts, Charlestown
OH: 42"; OW: 44 1/2"; OD: 24"
Mahogany, white pine, ash, and maple
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1930-210
Appearance: flat top dovetailed into straight sides; slant lid lets down and rests on pair of lopers with brass knobs; interior of desk consists of a center removable prospect cabinet with concave blocking and carved shell on door, with an interior blocked drawer, a shelf and a small upper valance drawer with scalloped edge; prospect cabinet removed by depressing a wooden spring lock through the center top of the cabinet; rectangular recess that accesses space behind large top drawer cut into writing surface at back of recess for prospect cabinet; center door bordered by a pair of false document drawers, decorated with applied Doric columns topped by urns and corkscrew finials; actual document drawers behind false ditto are accessible from rear of removable prospect section; on each side of document drawers is a blocked drawer, surmounted by two pigeon holes with scrolled dividers, and small upper valance drawers with depressed lunette motif; at sides are three concave blocked drawers, the upper one carved with a shell; raised molding extends along lower edge of compartments; front of lid is blocked and reverse blocked with rounded upper edges; front of desk consists of four graduated drawers blocked in a manner similar to lid, each drawer divider with a thin strip of applied double-beaded molding; heavy base molding carry the line of the blocking down to the ogee bracket feet.

Construction:
Sides half-blind dovetailed to top (dovetails visible on top but not sides) and dovetailed to bottom; white pine backed mahogany cock-beaded drawer dividers set in notches in case sides and joined to case sides with dados or sliding dovetails; ends of dividers visible from sides; mahogany cock-beaded strip nailed to front of case sides to hide joints; narrow drawer supports nailed to case sides behind second and third drawer dividers; wide drawer support behind first drawer divider extends to wide rear batten that spans the back of the case; drawer support may be tenoned into back of drawer divider and front of rear batten; rear batten nailed to case sides from outside of case; drawer stops nailed to top of wide rear batten and in rear corners of case behind second through fourth drawers; top drawer is shallower than other three drawers; vertical dividers possibly tenoned to top of uppermost drawer blade and underside of writing surface; drawer guide nailed to top of drawer support behind vertical divider; loper slides in space between vertical dividers/drawer guides and case sides and has a round tenon inserted into the side near the back end that acts as a stop when loper pulled out; loper of maple with mahogany end attached with tongue and groove joint.

Writing surface divided from large drawers below with solid mahogany front edge backed by about 5" of maple both attached to case sides in a dado or sliding dovetail; narrow strips possibly glued to case sides behind writing surface; desk interior bottom (under drawers) of white pine faced with mahogany in dado in case sides just above writing surface level, on top of narrow support strips; a narrow batten, notched to receive ends of narrow support strips, nailed to back of case from exterior extends across the interior of the case back just under this white pine board; vertical and horizontal partitions in desk interior are ash backed by white pine and are dadoed into case sides, case top and desk interior bottom board; prospect section, consisting of the center shell carved door and flanking false columned document drawers, can be removed by depressing a wooden spring lock through the top of the prospect section; two usable white pine document drawers can be accessed from the rear of the cabinet; document drawer sides are nailed to bottoms and ends, ends have mitered top edges, a nail in the center of the end acts as drawer pull; the prospect cabinet is constructed of ash sides dovetailed to ash top and bottom, ash dividers are dadoed into the same; supports for valance drawer nailed to vertical dividers; mahogany columns are glued to a mahogany block that in turn is attached to a white pine block sets into the ends of the document drawer recesses; under the removable prospect cabinet is a rectangular hole with chamfered edges in the white pine desk interior surface; this hole sits directly above the wide batten behind the upper most drawer of the desk; extant nails and nail holes in the front edge of this batten suggest there may have formerly been some type of enclosure for this secret recess.

Interior desk drawers of standard dovetail construction with mostly front to back oriented drawer bottoms (two wider drawers have side to side grain oriented bottoms) nailed to underside of sides, back, and rabbet in front; valance drawer bottoms set in dado in drawer front and nailed to sides and backs.

Base molding attached to front of case bottom with giant dovetail, nailed to case sides; base molding backed on bottom with three boards across the front, center one with shape glue block for pendant (now missing), and single boards down the sides with large triangular shaped blocks under rear bracket feet; front feet miter joined brackets nailed to base molding backed with vertical glue blocks flanked by two horizontal glue blocks each; rear bracket feet half blind dovetailed to side brackets and supported by two horizontal glue blocks.

Solid slant front lid with mitered battens attached to each end with tongue and groove joint, hinged to writing surface.

Large drawers of standard dovetail construction with front to back oriented bottom boards nailed to rabbet in drawer front and to back with drawer runners with chamfered back ends nailed along sides. Top blocked drawer hollowed out behind convex blocking; brass drawer pulls and escutcheons appear to be original.

Horizontal lapped backboards nailed in rabbets in case top, sides, and to back edge of bottom board.
Label:Blockfront desks and chests predominated in New England during the second half of the eighteenth century. This form, whose undulating, or blocked, facade derived from European sources, quickly became popular in New England but rarely appeared in other regions. While artisans in Boston and Newport, Rhode Island, produced the most refined examples, cabinetmakers throughout the area adopted the form and combined it with regional designs and motifs.
Mark(s):None found.