AMERICAN CHIPPENDALE MAHOGANY OXBOW SLANT FRONT DESK
North Shore Massachusetts c. 1770
Item # 505CPP29S
A very fine Colonial work of the Chippendale period, this desk was an expensive and very time consuming piece to produce. The oxbow drawers are a work of art, wrought from very thick solid mahogany planks that were then hand sawn and carved extensively to create a perfect curvy hump along the top drawer. The grains were chosen with care, allowing the facade to flow smoothly in only subtle swirling that works to accentuate the concavity at the center of each drawer. This is a typical form for the North Shore of Massachusetts, the three shell interior with finial capped columns on the document drawers being a staple in finer slant front desks of the region. The lobed shell draped from the apron of the desk is a perfect inversion of the shells in the writing area, the apron lobes convex while the interior is concave, an interesting means of reinforcing the ebb and flow of the overall case that finds completion in the fully developed ogival bracket feet.
Construction of the case is somewhat typical of the region. The drawers show tidy hand dovetailing of the fronts and backs, the bottom boards set in grooves along the edges and aligned perpendicular to the front, nailed along the back edge with a series of cut nails and reinforced along the front with three pine blocks. All drawers remain nearly untouched with original running strips, blocking, etc. and only repairs being the addition of tiny strips of pine to heal the shrink gaps in the bottom boards. The back of the case is entirely untouched with the two huge pine backboards set horizontally into a rabbet on either side and nailed along the edge with wrought roseheads. The underside of the chest shows entirely original feet other than the back left foot having a lower half of the facing replaced, all blocking being original and quite generous to support the weight of the case. Dovetailing along the top of the desk is left exposed. Inside of the case is a mahogany drawer blade backed by pine, the second drawer blade backed by a nearly full depth dust board - all runners are replaced, typical as these need to be shortened over time to reduce pressure against the backboards and drawer blades. The slant front drops over original hinges with mostly original hand cut screws.
This is a very fine and well preserved piece, the early finish with a wonderful patina under wax. It has such great movement and flow, being a work that would have taken countless hours and great skill to complete. It will certainly be a treasured acquisition by any serious collector of American Chippendale.
Measurements: 45 1/8" W x 26 1/2" D x 44 3/8" H; 32 3/4" H to writing surface
Early oxidized finish, not original, with age appropriate wear throughout: left side lighter from sunlight. Shrinkage cracks to sides of the case, repaired crack in front left foot facing, lower half of back left foot an old replacement, all feet/blocking otherwise original. Drawer runners and stops replaced - stops can be shifted back 1/2" so drawers close completely upon request. Thin pine strips sealing cracks in drawer bottoms; original brasses and locks (no key). Keyhole escutcheons and a few pull backings replaced. Some cockbead molding on drawers and lopers replaced. Lid with slight shrinkage warp and corner losses. Interior drawer lock replaced.