Desk and bookcase
Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts
Eighteenth-century American Arts No. 18
224.79 x 75.25 x 52.07 cm (88 1/2 x 29 5/8 x 20 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Walnut, white pine, mahogany, ebony, satinwood
Burton A. Cleaves Gallery (Gallery LG27)
Desk and bookcase of Virginia walnut and white pine. Front of crotch-grain veneer; drawer and door bands of mahogany, ebony and satinwood; stars of rosewood and satinwood on doors and lid. Scroll pediment; central finial ( a replacement). Two arched paneled doors enclosing drawers and pigeonholes. Slant lid above four graduated drawers with original brass bail handles and escutcheons. Bracket feet.
The practice of adding a bookcase above a slant-front desk developed in early-eighteenth-century Britain. Tall, substantial, and imposing, the combined desk and bookcase was designed to look like a small building. This very early American example incorporates many characteristics of the late Baroque style. The architectural form and strong verticality of the piece give it a striking presence, while its narrow proportions, clean lines, and high-quality woods add sophistication and refinement. The surface is enlivened by swirling veneers and inlaid designs in light and dark woods, including bands in a checkerboard pattern and five stars that create the illusion of spinning. The interior is lavishly fitted with stepped, undulating drawers; carved shells; and pigeonhole compartments that held important business and family documents.
Avery, Greenough, Townsend families; purchased from Mr. Edward Greenough Townsend, New York, for the M. and M. Karolik Collection of Eighteenth-Century American Arts.
The M. and M. Karolik Collection of Eighteenth-Century American Arts