Lot 2089
  • 2089

Important Queen Anne Carved and Figured Mahogany Block-and-Shell Kneehole Bureau Table, Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1765

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • mahogany
  • Height 34 1/2 in. by Width 37 in. by Depth 18 3/4 in.
appears to retain its original hardware.


John S. Walton, New York, 1951;
David Stockwell, Wilmington, Delaware, 1953;
Collection of Lansdell K. Christie (1903-1965), Syosset, New York;
By descent to Mrs. Lansdell K. Christie (d. 1992);
Christie’s, New York, Property from the Estate of Mrs. Lansdell K. Christie, January 27, 1996, sale 8360, lot 359;
Alan Miller, Quakertown, Pennsylvania.


John Walton advertisement. The Magazine Antiques (June 1951), p. 416;
David Stockwell advertisement. The Magazine Antiques (January 1953), p. 33;
George Parker, “Early American Furniture in Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Academy Review, 43: 2 (Spring 1997), 9;
Luke Beckerdite, “The Early Furniture of Christopher and Job Townsend.” American Furniture (2000): 26, fig. 42, 43;
Rhode Island Furniture Study, Yale University Art Gallery, object number RIF1222.


Pulls appear to be original. Minor repairs to top, including a small loss to the back proper right corner. Patch to surround of kneehole door on proper left side, approaching 2 inches in height. Rear feet loose. case width: 35 1/2 in.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This block-front dressing table represents one of the most highly regarded and sought after forms of Colonial American craftsmanship. It achieves remarkable distinction in the significant quality of the cabinetwork, the use of highly figured mahogany included for the case sides, the undulating profile of the shells with their well-defined lobes and fine proportions.  Representing one of the most regionally specific furniture forms of American furniture, the dressing table follows the design of block-front case furniture made in Newport and Providence, Rhode Island.  It displays a concave-blocked and incised lower central drawer, a unique feature more typically found in Massachusetts block-front examples. A closely related four-shell dressing table by another maker with a concave-blocked and incised lower central drawer ascribed to Newport is in the Hennage Collection and illustrated by Michael Moses in Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddard (Tenafly, NJ, 1984), fig. 1.15, p. 32.

This dressing table is one of the must successful extant examples of the form. It has been published as an early case piece attributed to Job or Christopher Townsend of Newport.1  This is due to the fact that the case construction, dovetailing, wood selection and shell carving closely parallel those that found on furniture attributed to those craftsmen.2  The use of plain drawers and cockbeading on the case also follows Newport work. But this dressing table also displays details that depart from Newport practice, such as the concave-blocked drawer mentioned above, suggesting it was made elsewhere. It exhibits several Providence characteristics that can be differentiated from those of Newport.3 The shells are carved from the solid and have a more sculptural quality. Because they are carved from the solid, the shells are bolder and made from a thicker stock. Virtually identical shells are found on a chest-on-chest at Winterthur that was made in Providence possibly by the same maker.4 The chest-on-chest was originally owned by Joseph Brown (1733-1785), one of the Brown brothers and a leading merchant of Providence. In addition, the feet of this dressing table are comprised of foot faces that are blocked to match the adjacent curves of the base molding, as is typical of most New England block-front pieces. The returns are distinctive to Providence work, and this dressing table follows a variation found on the Joseph Brown chest-on-chest mentioned above.5 The construction of the feet also follows Providence practice, in which the maker attached the faces with nails or screws and supported them with vertical glue blocks with horizontal flankers, as also featured on the Joseph Brown chest-on-chest.6

Several of these features – the profile of the feet, shells and similar moldings – also appear on a Providence chest-on-chest originally owned by John Brown (1736-1803).7  A pitch-pediment block-front chest-on-chest made in Providence for Nicholas Brown Sr. (1729-1791) or Nicholas Brown Jr. is also part of this group and likely stems from the same shop.8

1 See Luke Beckerdite, “The Early Furniture of Christopher and Job Townsend,” American Furniture (2000): 26, fig. 42, 43.
2 Ibid, pp. 23-25 for discussion and related examples.
3 Wendy Cooper and Tara Gleason, “A Different Rhode Island Block-and-Shell Story: Providence Provenances and Pitch-Pediments,” American Furniture 1999, pp. 185-8.
4 Ibid, fig. 3, p. 165.
5 Ibid, fig. 22.
6 Ibid, fig. 23.
7 Ibid, fig. 2, p. 164.
8 Ibid, fig. 5, p. 167.