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A CHIPPENDALE CARVED MAHOGANY BLOCK-FRONT AND BONNET-TOP DESK-AND-BOOKCASE
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION 
A CHIPPENDALE CARVED MAHOGANY BLOCK-FRONT AND BONNET-TOP DESK-AND-BOOKCASE

PROBABLY SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS, 1760-1780

Details
A CHIPPENDALE CARVED MAHOGANY BLOCK-FRONT AND BONNET-TOP DESK-AND-BOOKCASE
Probably Salem, Massachusetts, 1760-1780
In two parts, the upper section with broken swan's neck pediment centering and flanked by fluted urn finials above tombstone paneled doors flanked by fluted pilasters, opening to reveal a fitted interior headed by two fan-carved concave arches over eight valanced pigeonholes above six compartments, three short drawers and candleslides; the lower section with slant lid opening to reveal a compartmented interior with central fan carved prospect door flanked by three pigeon holes over a short drawer further flanked by fan-carved drawers, all over three short drawers, above four blocked long drawers over a molded base with central fan-carved pendant, on ogee bracket feet with shaped returns, appears to retain its original brasses
90in. high, 42in. wide, 25in. deep
Provenance
Curtis-Shreve Family, Salem, Massachusetts
Harry Arons Antiques, Inc., Ansonia, Connecticut, 1959
Sotheby's, New York, The Collection of the Late Thomas Mellon and Betty Evans, 19 June 1998, lot 2118

Lot Essay

This imposing, architecturally inspired desk shares a number of characteristics with other desks with Salem family histories. The sharp, square corners of the blocking, and the shell carving centered on the skirt are details in keeping with these other Salem desks. They are illustrated in Heckscher, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1985) cat. no. 181; Venable, American Furniture in the Bybee Collection (Austin, 1989) cat. no. 28; Jobe, ed., Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century (Boston 1972) page 129, and a fourth example sold in these rooms 16 January 1998, lot 252.
Thus, while Boston and Newport were the primary centers for production of block-front furniture in the eighteenth century, neighboring Salem also produced distinctive variations of this popular form. The block-front form was very expensive to produce, as a result of the additional mahogany needed, as well as the additional labor. Their expense was at least double that of their plain-front counterparts, and elaborate desks such as this example were widely recognized as an index of status. They were largely purchased by Salem's prosperous merchants and other wealthy, style-conscious members of society.
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