Bureau Table Maker, attributed to: John Townsend (American, 1732/33–1809)


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

The Townsend and Goddard families, who dominated Newport, Rhode Island, cabinetmaking in the mid-eighteenth century, are credited with having developed the Newport block-and-shell form, distinguished by bold blocking capped by convex and concave shells. On this example, the shells radiate out from the cross-hatched centers and have noticeably serpentine rays. These details typify furniture produced by John Townsend, to whom this example is attributed.


Mahogany, yellow-poplar, chestnut, eastern white pine


34 3/16 × 36 3/4 × 20 3/16 in. (86.9 × 93.3 × 51.3 cm)
other (Case): 34 7/16 × 18 7/16 in. (87.4 × 46.9 cm)

Credit Line

Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

Accession Number



18th century


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 records is ongoing.



In the collection of Francis P. Garvan, New York, by 1928; by descent to Mabel Brady Garvan, New York Gift in 1957 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker, exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 128, 130, fig. 25
  • Gerald W. R. Ward, ""America's Contribution to Craftsmanship": The Exaltation and Interpretation of Newport Furniture," American Furniture (1999), 234–35, fig. 7
  • Elise K. Kenney, ed., Handbook of the Collections: Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 89, ill
  • 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), 40, 195, 216–17, 230, no. 109, pl. 10
  • Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 143, 163, fig. 3.87
  • John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 148–49, fig. 381
  • Liza Moses and Michael Moses, "Authenticating John Townsend's and John Goddard's Queen Anne and Chippendale Tables," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982), 163, fig. 3.87
  • Morrison H. Heckscher, "John Townsend's Block-and-Shell Furniture," Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982), 1151, fig. 20
  • Rick Mastelli, "In Search of Period Furniture Makers," Fine Woodworking (July–August 1980), front cover, 33, 35, ill
  • Meyric R. Rogers, "The Mabel Brady Garvan Collection of Furniture," Yale Alumni Magazine 25, no. 4 (January 1962), ill. cover
  • Meyric R. Rogers, "Garvan Furniture at Yale," Connoisseur Year Book, 1960 (1960), 57, fig. 7
  • Thomas H. Ormsbee, The Story of American Furniture (New York: MacMillan Company, 1934), 138–39, fig. 60
  • Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), n.p., no. 272
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

bureau tables


"16 B[illegible text] [illegible figures] / "[illegible text]ont [illegible figures] / "F 14 1/2," in crayon, on underside of bureau table; "Upper," in crayon, on top of dustboard under long drawer; illegible text [including a concentric spiral that may be part of a Townsend finishing mark], in graphite, on top of dustboard under long drawer; illegible mark, in graphite, on exterior backboard of bureau table; "A," in graphite, on exterior back of long drawer; "A" through "F," in graphite, on tops of dividers under small drawers [from proper-right top to proper-left bottom]; "A," in graphite, and "B," in crayon, on exterior back of proper-right upper small drawer; "B" through "F," in graphite, on interior and exterior bottoms and exterior backs of small drawers [from proper-right middle to proper-left bottom]; "W" or "M," in graphite, on exterior backs of small drawers; "G198" [later], in crayon, on interior bottom and exterior proper-left side of proper-left upper small drawer

Technical metadata and APIs


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