Chippendale Massachusetts Slant-Front Desk
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A Fine Example of American Chippendale Furniture:
A Massachusetts Slant-Front Desk
Massachusetts, c. 1770
Thomas Chippendale is one of the most influential and celebrated cabinetmakers of all time. His designs not only established the remarkable reputation of English Georgian furniture, but also that of its American colonial counterpart. Born in 1718 in the small town of Otley, Yorkshire, Chippendale was from birth destined to become a furniture maker. He was born into a family of joiners and carpenters, but recognition of his talents did not come until his relocation to London in 1748. There, he established himself in a workshop in St. Martin’s Lane, the most fashionable address for any London cabinetmaker.
Chippendale’s influence traveled abroad by way of his much celebrated The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, first published in 1754. The publication was sold in Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Low Countries, France and ultimately in America. While English Chippendale furniture displayed a great variety of rococo, Chinese, and Gothic designs in combination with Georgian classical forms, American Chippendale remained more faithful to the architecturally solid Georgian. As can be seen in the above slant-front desk, the beauty of the wood was allowed to shine with sparing use of additional augmentation. The reverse serpentine, or oxbow front gives an exquisite form to the desk and serves to enhance the natural grain of the mahogany. Moreover, the curving form is carried down to the straight bracket feet. The interior of the desk contains an additional eight small drawers of various sizes, as well as eight cubby holes.
Sitting at this eighteenth-century desk, it is easy to imagine an earlier owner leaning on the same surface, struggling with an important letter. It represents the best in American Chippendale furniture design and its amazing condition is testament to the esteem its various owners have maintained for it during the past two and a half centuries.