Lot 4231
  • 4231

The Nicholas Brown Important Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Scalloped-Top Tea Table with Open Ball and Talons, Newport, Rhode Island, circa 1765

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • mahogany


Nicholas Brown (1729-1791), Providence, Rhode Island, who married Rhoda Jenckes (d. 1783) in 1762;
To their daughter Hope (1773-1855) Providence, Rhode Island, who married Thomas Poynton Ives (1769-1835), in 1792;
To their daughter, Charlotte Rhoda Ives (1792-1881), Providence, Rhode Island, who married Professor William Giles Goddard of Johnston, Rhode Island (January 2, 1794-February 16, 1846) on May 22, 1821. They had nine children;
To their eldest son, Colonel William Goddard (December 25, 1825-September 20, 1907), Providence, Rhode Island, who married Mary Edith Jenckes (1844-1921) on February 19, 1867;
To their only child, Edith Hope Goddard (January 4, 1868-April 5, 1970), who married Charles Oliver Iselin (1854-1932) at 38 Brown Street in Providence on June 9, 1894. They lived in New York City, Upper Brookeville, New York, and Aiken, South Carolina. Edith Goddard Iselin died in her home in Aiken, S.C. in 1970 at the age of 102;
At her death and per her will, this table was bequeathed to her first-cousin-once-removed, Robert H.I. Goddard (1909-2003), of Providence;
To the children of Robert H.I. Goddard, the current owners.


Old Long Island: Dedicated to the Preservation of Long Island’ ‘Gold Coast’ Estates and Other Things Old, www.oldlongisland.com. February 15, 2009, October 1, 2010, November 12, 2012; Exterior and interior photographs of Wolver Hollow are illustrated. This table is pictured in the library, to the right of the fireplace, with a lamp placed upon it.


A later drawer added to one side of table. Upon examination of the drawer it appears to date from the early 19th century (circa 1800-1825). The support rails and accompanying glue blocks appear to be contemporaneous to the drawer however apparent later 20th century wire finishing nails are uses to secure the side supports to the added vertical glue blocks that are secured to the frame with hand cut nails. Top secured to side rails currently with later screws and glue block. The top was removed for examination (images available from department). All screw pockets accounted for except one along long rail. Careful examination of the screw pocket indicates that no screw was ever placed in this screw pocket. Top was originally secured with glue blocks. One knob on drawer retain apparent original hand cut screw securing it to drawer face. Underside of top with six flat rectangular block glued to underside of surface to stabilize and prevent further shrinkage cracking to top. Underside of top varnished at drawer location. Interior of drawer varnished and inscribed with letters GIG in white paint. Secondary wood of drawer is poplar. Overall the table's surface is in excellent condition. No significant wear or abrasion to carving. All open talons appear original. Two corner glue block replaced and two are original.
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

An important survival of Colonial Newport furniture, this tea table is one of two tables likely originally owned by Nicholas Brown (1729-1791), a wealthy Providence merchant and member of the prominent Brown family of Rhode Island. The other Nicholas Brown tea table with a direct history of descent through his family was sold in these rooms, Property of the Goddard Family, January 22, 2005, sale 8055, lot 809. Both tea tables are nearly identical in design, differing only in the exposed leg squares. The table sold in the 2005 Goddard sale was likely part of the wedding furniture ordered from John Goddard (1723/4-85) after Nicholas Brown and Rhoda Jenckes (d. 1783) married on May 2, 1762. This furniture order is referenced in an October 10, 1763 letter written by Moses Brown, Nicholas’ brother, to John Goddard, in which Brown reprimands Goddard for putting other orders ahead of “my Brothers Wifes furniture”, which was apparently finally delivered in September of 1763.1 That table cost approximately £90 Rhode Island currency at the time it was made, the same amount that John Goddard charged John Brown for his “Mahogony Scollop’d Tea Table” in 1760.2  Valued at near the same price in the estate inventory taken upon Nicholas Brown’s death in 1791, the documented tea table possibly corresponds to the  “1 Tea Table Set China Compleat” listed in the parlour at £4-10-0 Lawful Money – the currency in use in Rhode Island after the American Revolution and approximately £82 Rhode Island currency.3 The present tea table was likely made later to match the other table by a maker familiar with Goddard shop practice. It follows the design of the documented table quite closely and also exhibits a high quality craftsmanship but its carving differs in execution and appears to be by a different hand. This tea table could correspond to one of the other references to tea tables in the Nicholas Brown inventory, which include “1 Tea Serving Table” in the parlour valued at £2 Lawful Money and “1 Tea table” in the Northwest Chamber valued at £3-15-0 Lawful Money. Subsequent to the table’s creation a drawer was masterfully added. The drawer’s meticulous craftsmanship, support structure and handwrought screws and nails securing the wooden knobs and the bottom board, respectively, indicate that the drawers was added to the table between 1795 and 1815.

At his death, Nicholas Brown bequeathed his second wife, Avis (Binney), money and the property she brought to their marriage, leaving the remainder and bulk of his estate to his three children, Nicholas II (1769-1841), Moses (1775-1791) and Hope (1773-1855), stipulating that it remain “undivided till my daughter Hope arrives at the age of twenty one years or her day of marriage which shall first happen.”4 Moses died without issue on February 28, 1791, prior to the division of the estate. Nicholas II inherited the “Bookcase with Books,” which resided from 1814 to 1989 at the Nightingale-Brown house in Providence.5 Both tea tables descended to Hope Brown, who married in 1792 Thomas Poynton Ives (1769-1835), a successful merchant and partner in the Brown family firm, and were among the original furnishings of their home, the Thomas Poynton Ives house (completed 1805), on Power Street in Providence.6

After Thomas Poynton Ives’s death in 1835 and Hope (Brown) Ives’ subsequent death in 1855, the two tables descended to their eldest child, Charlotte Rhoda Ives (1792-1881), who married William Giles Goddard (1794-1846), on May 22, 1821. He graduated from Brown University in 1812 and was a Professor of Philosophy and Metaphysics at Brown. He was also editor of Worcester Spy from 1813 to 1825 and editor and proprietor of Rhode Island American. They built and resided in a house that stands today as the Maddock Alumni Center of Brown University at 38 Brown Street in Providence, at the corner of Brown and George Streets. After Charlotte (Ives) Goddard’s death, the two tables were separated, descending through two of her sons -- and thus separate branches of the family. Their son, Colonel William Goddard (1825-1907) inherited the William Giles Goddard house and this table at the death of his parents. He served in the Civil War under General Ambrose Burnside and married Mary Edith Jenckes (1844-1921) on February 19, 1867.

Their only child, Edith Hope Goddard (1868-1970) inherited the table and the house from her parents. She married Charles Oliver Iselin (1854-1932) at 38 Brown Street in Providence on June 9, 1894. She took the table – perhaps when she gifted her Providence house to Brown University - to Wolver Hollow, the house they had built by Hoppin & Koen in Upper Brookville, New York circa 1914. Charles Iselin was an investment banker, sportsman, and yacht owner who competed in the America’s Cup, winning in 1887, 1893, 1895, 1899, 1901, and 1903, and was elected to their hall of fame.  Time Magazine described him as “probably the most famed yachtsman in the U.S.” during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Hope was an American heiress and sportswoman who was the first woman to compete as part of a crew in an America’s Cup yacht race. She was also an owner of thoroughbred racehorses. They had a winter residence, Hopelands, in Aiken, South Carolina.  They organized the Aiken Hospital and Relief Society, which built and equipped the first hospital in Aiken in 1917. Hope (Goddard) Iselin died in her home in Aiken in 1970 at the age of 102, and she bequeathed this table to her first-cousin-once-removed, Robert H.I. Goddard (1909-2003), who owned the other Nicholas Brown tea table. He was the grandson of Colonel Robert H.I. Goddard (1837-1916), who served in the Civil War under General Ambrose Burnside alongside his brother Colonel William Goddard. Robert H.I. Goddard’s children are the current owners of this table.

The other tea table (sold at Sotheby’s 2005) originally owned by Nicholas Brown descended along with Thomas and Hope (Brown) Ives’s house and contents to their son, Moses Brown Ives (1794-1857), a Harvard graduate and merchant at Brown and Ives, and his wife Anne Allen Dorr (1810-1884) (fig.1).7 Moses and Anne’s daughter, Hope Brown Ives (1839-1909), inherited the Thomas Poynton Ives house and table at their death.8 She married Henry Grinnell Russell on January 20, 1864 and they lived in the house, without issue, until his death circa 1905 and her death in 1909.9 The house and contents descended to her cousin, Robert H. Ives Goddard, who took residence in 1910/11.10 His descendants sold the table at Sotheby’s in 2005. Thus the two tables which had been together for three generations [Nicholas Brown, Hope (Brown) Ives, and Charlotte (Ives) Goddard] before they descended to separate lines, were re-united in 1970 on the bequest of Hope (Goddard) Iselin, and were in the same family for 35 years before the first table was sold in 2005. Now, in 2017, the second table is being offered in these rooms.

Two closely related tea tables of the same form were made by John Goddard for other members of the Brown family.  One at the John Brown House was originally owned by John Brown (1736-1803), Nicholas Brown’s brother, and descended directly in his family to Grace Herreshoff Sperry, who gifted it to the Rhode Island Historical Society (fig. 2).11  Ordered in 1760 probably around the time John and Sarah (Smith) Brown married, that table can now be documented to John Goddard on the basis of a statement of account recently discovered in the Brown Family papers at the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.12  After December of 1760, Goddard sent John Brown a statement of account listing  “a Mahogony Scollop’d Tea Table” at the price of £90, “2 Mahogony Roundabout Chairs @ £60/” for £120, and “2 Square Leaf & Claw foot Tables” at £140, all itemized under the date October 19th. In addition, one “Mahogony Tea Table” for £45 and one “Mahogony Compas Front Dressing Table” for £125 are itemized under the date December 19th, for a total of £520 Rhode Island currency. In a letter dated August 29, 1760, Goddard informed Brown that he “completed the Tea Table, and have the other Tables and Chairs in good Forwardness.” 13 An extant Goddard receipt indicates John Brown left a deposit of £150 on the order “for Sundry Houshold Furniture not yet Delivered” on September 23, 1760.14  The mahogany tea table priced at £45 was for Brown’s sister-in-law, Abigail Smith, and a notation at the bottom of the statement of account indicates it was charged to Dan Smith.15 John Brown paid for the remainder of the order in cash and a “Firkin of Butter” valued at £54-18-00.

The second tea table at Winterthur was originally owned by Jabez Bowen (1739-1815) of Providence, a deputy governor of Rhode Island, chancellor of Brown University, and husband of Sarah (Brown), Nicholas Brown’s cousin (fig. 3). The Bowen table is documented by a June 30, 1763 letter written to Moses Brown, in which Goddard states “I send herewith The Tea Table … I recd. A few lines from Jabez Bowen whom I suppose this furniture is for”.16 The Moses Brown Ledger for 1763-1836 notes for the date July 23, 1763 the debit to the account of Jabez Bowen for £452 Rhode Island currency, “to cash sent Jn Goddard for half Doz. chairs & 1 table.”17

Newport furniture of this quality made by the Goddard and Townsend craftsmen and offering a direct descent from the original owner sells on the marketplace for record prices. The desk-and-bookcase originally owned by Nicholas Brown sold in June of 1989 for $12,100,000, the highest price ever paid for a piece of American furniture.18 The Captain Anthony Low slab table made by John Goddard sold in January 2012 for $2,098,500.19 The Catherine Goddard kneehole bureau table, attributed to John Goddard, sold at Christie's in January 2011 for $5,682,500.20 Another bureau table signed by Jonathan Townsend with restored feet sold at Christie's in January 2013 for $2,210,500.21 The Nicholas Brown tea table mentioned above was the last tea table from this group to come up for sale and sold at Sotheby’s, Property of the Goddard Family, January 22, 2005, sale 8055, lot 809 for $8,416,000. The Jabez Bowen table at Winterthur was purchased by Henry du Pont at the Flayderman sale held at the American Art Association Anderson Galleries in 1930 for $29,000, a fortune at that time.22

1 The letter is in the collection of the Moses Brown papers at the Rhode Island Historical Society library (RIHS, oversize box 1, F.1V1.P53, no. 89) and transcribed in Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards, Tenafly, NJ: Americana Press, 1984, p. 196-7. Moses references the Nicholas Brown order on p. 198.
2 Statement of account from John Goddard to John Brown, 1760, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University (BFBP, Box 775, folder 9, item 8).
3 Inventory of the Personal Estate of Nicholas Brown Esquire, Recorded November 7, 1791, Collection of City Archives, Providence City Hall. Sotheby’s would like to thank John J. McCusker, Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of American History and Professor of Economics, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, for providing an analysis of 18th century Rhode Island currency. See John J. McCusker, Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600-1775: A Handbook, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1992 and John McCusker, How Much is That in Real Money? A Historical Commodity Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States, Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 2001. 
4 Will of Nicholas Brown, Recorded November 7, 1791, Collection of City Archives, Providence City Hall.
5 Sold at Christie’s, The Magnificent Nicholas Brown Desk and Bookcase, June 3, 1989.
6 Providence directories from 1824 to 1832 list Thomas Poynton Ives as residing on Power Street. After his death, Providence directories from 1836 to 1855 list Hope Ives as a widow living at 37 Power Street.
7 Moses Brown Ives is listed in Providence directories for 1856 and 1857 as residing at 37 Power Street. Mrs. Moses Ives is listed at 37 Power Street in directories for the years 1858 to 1869. Power Street was renumbered at that time for the 1870 directory lists Mrs. Moses B. Ives at 66 Power Street. She continues to be listed there until 1883. The 1884 directory lists her as “Ives Moses B. Mrs. Died March 1, 1884.”
8 Will of Moses B. Ives, Recorded July 13, 1857, Collection of City Archives, Providence City Hall.
9 Providence directories for 1885 to 1904 list Henry G. Russell residing at 66 Power Street. The 1909 directory lists Mrs. Henry G. Russell at 66 Power Street. The directory for 1910 lists the Estate of Hope Brown Russell at 31 Market Square.
10 Robert H. Ives Goddard is listed residing at 66 Power Street beginning with the directory for 1911.
11 See The Rhode Island Historical Society, A “Most Magnificent” Mansion, Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1985, p. 11.
12 John Carter Brown Library, Brown University (BFBP, Box 775, Folder 9, Item 18). Sotheby’s would like to thank Richard Ring, Reference and Acquisitions Librarian, at the John Carter Brown Library for discovering this statement of account as part of the Sotheby’s research effort for this sale.
13 John Carter Brown Library, Brown University (BFBP, Box 8, Folder 3, item 11).
14 John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, (BFBP, Box 775, Folder 4, Item 22).
15 Wendy Cooper, “The purchase of furniture and furnishings by John Brown, Providence merchant,” The Magazine Antiques (February 1973): 333.
16 A transcription of the letter is printed in Moses, p. 196.
17 Moses Brown Papers, Rhode Island Historical Society Library (Box 11X, vol. 3, p. 436).
18 Sold at Christie’s, The Magnificent Nicholas Brown Desk and Bookcase, June 3, 1989.
19 Christie's, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph K. Ott, January 20, 2012, sale 2635, lot 139.
20 Christie's, Important American Furniture, Folk Art, English Pottery, Rugs & Prints, January 21, 2011, sale 2414, lot 92.
21 Christie's, Important American Furniture, Folk Art and Prints, January 25, 2013, sale 2670, lot 157.
22 American Art Association Anderson Galleries, Colonial Furniture, Silver & Decorations, The Collection of the Late Philip Flayderman, January 2–4, 1930, lot 450.