Chippendale Figured Mahogany High Chest of Drawers
Chippendale Figured Mahogany Shell-and-Block Chest of Drawers
Chippendale Carved Mahogany Serpentine-Front Card Table
Only approximately a dozen Newport dressing tables are known, far fewer than the number of related high chests. This table, with its open talons, is one of the most fully developed examples; its carved front legs make it singularly distinctive.
Newport dressing tables can be separated into three groups: the earliest group, with slipper feet; those with pad feet; and those with front claw-and-ball feet and rear pad feet.1One maverick example has four claw-and-ball feet and other features quite separate from the rest of the group; see Warren 1975, 60, cat. no. 115. The maker of only one table, a slipper-foot example, is documented: Job Townsend billed Samuel Ward on July 1, 1746, for “A Mahogany Dressing Table . . . 13.10.–.”2Rodriguez Roque, 38–39, cat. no. 17. The other two slipper-foot dressing tables are almost identical to the documented Townsend one, with the same drawer configuration, similarly carved shells within an arc, and molded overhanging tops without any applied moldings between the top and the case.3Ott, 98–99, cat. no. 63; Montgomery and Kane, 148–49, cat. no. 97; and Moses, 41, nos. 1.25 and 1.25a. The second group, with pad feet, begins to incorporate the slightly later feature of an applied cove molding under the top and thus seems to date after 1750.4Moses, 42, nos. 1.26 and 24; and Ott, 100–101, cat. no. 64. Three of the third group—the most fully developed and probably the most costly dressing tables—are closely related to the Collection’s piece with their applied cove molding, similar shells all set within an inscribed arc, and open talons on the front feet.5Ott, 102–103, no. 65; Rodriguez Roque, 40–41, cat. no. 18; and Carpenter 1954, 88, cat. no. 60.
This dressing table exhibits the fine-quality, highly figured mahogany used by the Goddard and Townsend cabinet shops. The legs are very square with crisp, hard edges, and the knee carving is robust and sculptural. On the feet, the talon and claw break the inside curve of the ankle.6Moses identifies the dressing table’s characteristic foot as the documented work of John Goddard (Moses, 210).
Although there is no documentation to attribute this piece to a specific maker, some chalk script on the inside of the backboard seems to read “Jn De . . . .” The table is said to have been owned by Stephen Hopkins (1707–1785), governor of Rhode Island and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Wendy A. Cooper
Excerpted from Jonathan L. Fairbanks. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.