Robust and sculptural, this dining table exemplifies the confident mastery of its maker and excellence of Newport design during the Chippendale era. The table's construction and foot carving both point to the work of John Goddard (1723-1785), long celebrated as one of the city's-and early America's-most famous cabinetmakers. Due to the scarcity of signed and documented examples, Goddard's practices are less identifiable than those of his kinsman John Townsend (1732-1809). Nevertheless, the few tables known to have been made by Goddard display several characteristics seen on the table offered here and taken together, provide a firm attribution to the cabinetmaker's shop. A dining table documented to Goddard by a 1774 bill of sale displays braces under the top that "pass-through" the top of the table's frame. As noted by Michael Moses, such braces contrast with John Townsend's braces, which are dovetailed within the frame, and have not been found on any furniture signed by or displaying characteristics of another maker and thus, are "distinctive" to John Goddard. In addition, both the 1774 table by Goddard and the table offered here feature swing-legs that overlap the skirt. The open-talon feet are also in keeping with work documented to Goddard's shop, such as the tea table made for Jabez Bowen in 1763, now at Winterthur Museum, and the tea table made for John Brown in 1760, now at the Rhode Island Historical Society.
Characteristics of Goddard's feet seen here include bulbous knuckles at the top of the rear talons and rounded, rather than angular, knuckles on the front three talons. Made from a large stock of imported mahogany and exhibiting fine and time-consuming workmanship such as the undercutting of the talons, this dining table would have been an expensive addition to an eighteenth-century household. Though with rounded leaves, it was probably comparable in terms of cost to one of the two "Square Leaf & Claw foot Tables" priced at 70 each in Goddard's 1760 bill to John Brown. See Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, NJ, 1984), pp. 119, 204, 207, 210-211, 219, plate 7, figs. 3.37, 4.4, 4.6, 5.6; for the 1774 dining table, see also Sotheby's New York, January 22, 2004, lot 1201; for the Bowen tea table, see also Nancy E. Richards and Nancy Goyne Evans, New England Furniture at Winterthur: Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods (Winterthur Museum, 1997), cat. 123, pp. 238-240; for the John Brown tea table, see Sotheby's New York, Property of the Goddard Family, pp. 28, 36 figs. 1, 7.
The table displays original wrought-iron butt hinges stamped "RF." Identical stamps have been found on hinges on dining tables from Tidewater Virginia and while they could refer to a British maker, Ronald Hurst and Jon Prown speculate that they may have been made by Robert Froggett, a blacksmith working in the Fredericksburg-Falmouth, Virginia area from the 1740s to the 1770s (Ronald L. Hurst and Jonathan Prown, Southern Furniture 1680-1830 (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1997), pp. 212, 215, fn. 6; for another table with "RF" hinges, see Sotheby's New York, October 11, 2001, lot 273). If made by Froggett, their presence on a Newport table may have been due to the triangular trade of rum, slaves and molasses as ships sailing along this route frequently stopped in the Southern colonies and picked up local goods before returning back to Newport.
This table was previously owned by Mary (Street) Bannister (d. 1986) and according to family tradition was collected by her grandfather, John Fayrham Street (1857-1931). The son of George Dollive Street (1822-1906), who emigrated from Manchester, England in 1827, John F. Street was born in Pawtucket where he lived the rest of his life. In 1886, he married Annie Maria Lomas (1859-1904) of Woonsocket, Rhode Island and the couple had one son, Henry Abbott Street (1889-1956), the father of Mary. Street was financially prosperous and, besides his Pawtucket home on the corner of Cottage and Lyon Streets, owned a summer house in Hampton, Connecticut where he died at the age of 74. According to an obituary, he organized the Eddy and Street Cotton Yam Company, which was renamed the John F. Street Company in 1910, and was active in various community organizations, including the Union Lodge, Pawtucket Council and Trinity Episcopal Church. He was also a member of the Rhode Island Historical Society and an interest in his state's past may have led to his acquisition of this Newport table. See Henry A. Street and Mary A. Street, comps., The Street Genealogy (Exeter, NH, 1895), pp. 436-437; "John F. Street, Cotton Yarn Broker, Dies in 75th Year," unidentified newspaper clipping, Department files).
Christie's gratefully acknowledges the scholarship of Martha H. Willoughby.