American Decorative Arts
Maker, attributed to: John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809

Bureau Table


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)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
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.
Made in Newport, Rhode Island
On view
18th century

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: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 128, 130, fig. 25.

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.

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

Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), n.p., no. 272.

Thomas H. Ormsbee, The Story of American Furniture (New York: MacMillan Company, 1934), 138–39, fig. 60.

John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 148–49, fig. 381.

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

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.

Rick Mastelli, “In Search of Period Furniture Makers,” Fine Woodworking (July–August 1980): front cover, 33, 35, ill.

Morrison H. Heckscher, “John Townsend’s Block-and-Shell Furniture,” Antiques 121, no. 5 (May 1982): 1151, fig. 20.

Judith Bernstein et al., The Eye of the Beholder: Fakes, Replicas, and Alterations in American Art, ed. Gerald W. R. Ward, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1977), 14, fig. 1.

Meyric R. Rogers, “Garvan Furniture at Yale,” Connoisseur Year Book, 1960 (1960): 57, fig. 7.

Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 143, 163, fig. 3.87.

Gerald W. R. Ward, “”America’s Contribution to Craftsmanship”: The Exaltation and Interpretation of Newport Furniture,” American Furniture (1999): 234–35, fig. 7.

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.