American Decorative Arts

Desk and Bookcase


Mahogany, American black cherry, chestnut, eastern white pine, and southern yellow pine

272.4 x 113.5 x 64 cm (107 1/4 x 44 11/16 x 25 3/16 in.)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

The imposing proportions of many American eighteenth-century case pieces give them a pronounced architectural character. On this desk and bookcase, the blocking on the drawer fronts continues through the concave and convex carved shells on the slant top of the desk and the doors of the bookcase. Fluted quarter-columns and a scrolled pediment with urn-shaped finials frame this facade. The desk was made for John Brown, a Providence, Rhode Island, merchant.

Made in Providence, Rhode Island
18th century
On view*

Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), vol. 1, p. 248–49, fig. 272.

Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), n.p., no. 708.

Loan Exhibition of Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth-Century Furniture and Glass, exh. cat. (New York: American Art Galleries, 1929), n.p., no. 638, ill.

Thomas H. Ormsbee, The Story of American Furniture (New York: MacMillan Company, 1934), 136–38, fig. 59.

Edgar G. Miller, American Antique Furniture: A Book for Amateurs, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Lord Baltimore Press, 1937), vol. 1, p. 490–91, no. 897.

Charles Nagel, Jr., American Furniture: 1650–1850 (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1949), 47, pl. 15.

Meyric R. Rogers, “Garvan Furniture at Yale,” Connoisseur Year Book (1960): fig. 10.

Meyric R. Rogers, “The Mabel Brady Garvan Collection of Furniture,” Yale Alumni Magazine 25, no. 4 (January 1962): 10, ill.

Louis B. Wright, The Arts in America: The Colonial Period (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1966), pl. 233.

John T. Kirk, Early American Furniture: How to Recognize, Evaluate, and Care for the Most Beautiful Pieces: High Style, Country, Primitive and Rustic (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), 34–35, fig. 19.

Katherine Neilson and Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, Selected Paintings and Sculpture from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972), n.p., introduction, ill.

Wendy A. Cooper, “The Purchase of Furniture and Furnishings by John Brown, Providence Merchant, Part I: 1760-1788,” Antiques 103, no. 4 (February 1973): 334, 338–39, pl. 2.

Charles F. Montgomery, “1776—How America Really Looked: Furniture,” American Art Journal 7, no. 1 (May 1975): 62, ill.

Sydney V. James, Colonial Rhode Island: A History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975), 246, ill.

Barbaralee Diamondstein, “What Would You Choose if You Could Choose Any Object?,” Artnews 8, no. 74 (October 1975): 49, ill.

Charles F. Montgomery and Patricia E. Kane, eds., American Art: 1750–1800 Towards Independence, exh. cat. (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976), 150–52, fig. 100.

Charles F. Montgomery, “And of Early American Art,” Yale Alumni Magazine 39, no. 7 (April 1976): 14, ill.

Charles F. Montgomery, “Regional Preferences and Characteristics,” Antiques 109, no. 6 (June 1976): 1197, pl. 1.

Simon Jervis, “The Americanization of American Art?,” Apollo (September 1976): 186.

John Cornforth, “The Birth of American Art,” Country Life (July 22, 1976): 221.

Christopher Gilbert, “The Victoria and Albert Museum, American Art, 1750–1800: Towards Independence,” Decorative Arts Society Newsletter 2, no. 3 (Summer 1976): 6–7, ill.

Sarah Sherrill, “Current and Coming,” Antiques 115, no. 1 (January 1979): 40, ill.

Robert Bishop and Patricia Coblentz, Furniture 1, Prehistoric through Rococo (New York: Cooper-Hewitt Museum, National Design Museum, 1979), fig. 93.

Patricia E. Kane, “American Furniture in the Yale University Art Gallery,” Antiques 117, no. 5 (June 1980): 1317, pl. 4.

Gerald W. R. Ward, Patricia E. Kane, and Helen A. Cooper, Francis P. Garvan, Collector, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1980), 28–30, fig. 5.

John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 4–6, fig. 3.

Liza Moses and Michael Moses, “Authenticating John Townsend’s and John Goddard’s Queen Anne and Chippendale Tables,” Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 302–3, 325–27, fig. 8.16a–c.

Charles F. Montgomery, “Francis P. Garvan,” Antiques 121, no. 1 (January 1982): 248, fig. 5.

Bill Dulaney, “Wallace Nutting: Advocate of the Pilgrim Century,” Fine Woodworking no. 39 (March/April 1983): 72, ill.

Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 46–47, ill.

“Giving an Elephant to Blind Men? The Cross-Disciplinary Role of a Desk and Bookcase,” Arts Magazine 59, no. 2 (October 1984): 87–99, fig. 2.

Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 302, 325, fig. 8.16, 8.16a–c.

Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1988), 11, 45, 327, 339–44, no. 177, pl. 15.

Handbook of the Collections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 89, ill.

Wendy A. Cooper and Tara L. Gleason, “A Different Rhode Island Block-and-Shell Story: Providence Provenances and Pitch-Pediments,” American Furniture (1999): 169, fig. 6.

Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 92–93, fig. 82.

Brock Jobe, “The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon,” American Furniture (2001): 128–29, fig. 11, 12.

Dennis Andrew Carr, American Colonial Furniture: Guide to the Collection, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2004), 10–11, 16, fig. 20.

Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), fig. X.

Angela Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2008), 118, fig. 4.27.

Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 201, no. 106, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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