American Chippendale Antique Desk, Pennsylvania c. 1790-1815


Item # 1407JXE27P

This is an outstanding example of late Chippendale from the Delaware River Valley region of Pennsylvania. The craftsman executing this work selected the walnut planks with great care, utilizing a positively chaotic grain flow for the drawers and prospect door with a more symmetrical grain for the lid and sides of the case. Lifting over period brass hinges (possibly original) to rest firmly on projecting lopers reveals a rectangular prospect door flanked by document drawers and two-over-one drawers beneath four pigeon-hole letter slots. The document drawer sides are covered with period inscriptions, much of it being accounting but also with a note in the same hand and pigment reading "...August 4 1812" and a somewhat illegible signature of "Ger Ryall Jr.".

The facade of the desk is composed of four graduated drawers with molded lipping and period brasses in the original holes (probably replacements). The drawers are constructed in the typical manner for this region, the frame of poplar with dovetails of the sides contained within the dovetails of the front and back, the bottom boards half-lapped and deeply chamfered along the edges to set in grooves along the sides and front with triangular glue blocks along the chamfered edges for permanence. The back edge is tacked with square forged iron nails.

The interior of the case features three-quarter depth dust boards of yellow pine, these joined together with tongue-in-groove joinery that has long since separated and left gaps between sections. The underside of the desk is clean and solidly constructed with a large rectangular block inside each foot - the underside is apparently untouched and retains an illegibly signature in large strokes. The "B", "J" or "R" that is so boldly represented on the underside is also found on the bottom of several drawers and both document drawers. The back of the desk is untouched other than a handful of supplemental modern nails.

Most attractive, however, is the at least partially original finish - this is worn, oxidized and very dry under layers of worn wax. There are many layers to the finish, as areas were touched up over the years, and the overall result is very striking. This is an outstanding acquisition for collectors of fine American works, particularly objects from Pennsylvania.

Materials: Yellow Pine [backboards, dust boards, bottom of case, some small drawer bottoms], Tulip Poplar [drawer frames, most drawer bottoms], Walnut [all primary surfaces]; Unidentified [drawer bottom blocks, foot blocking]


Furniture and It's Makers of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Schiffer, p. 104 - similar desk c. 1799 by John Warner

Measurements: 41 1/2" W x 22" D x 44" H; 32 7/8" H to writing surface; writing surface is 37 1/4" W x 23 1/2" D

Condition: Hardware - hinges on lid are period but are probably replacements using the same spots, most screws replaced in these; hinges on prospect door replaced in same spot; all brasses are period, all pins/nuts 19th century, but all of these are probably replaced using the same holes; brass keyhole escutcheons replaced; original locks with no keys, lock from prospect door absent; brass knobs on lopers and several drawers are replaced - note the lower drawer inside prospect hole has had the brass knob moved upward leaving an open hole.

Other notes - Feet are almost entirely original with some later patching; these are face nailed with some horizontal splits, scars and wear; backboards are original with their original untouched wrought nails supplemented by some modern nails; left loper missing an interior dowel (to stop it from being pulled out of the case) and with a 19th c. screw beneath loper to act as the "stop"; extensive lip repairs, left side of lid with loss at left-upper corner and lip repair along left edge; surface is very early with at least portions of it being the original finish, the whole being very worn and oxidized under later layers of wax - positively gorgeous overall effect from the surfaces; crack through burl of drawer (second from bottom); several drawer bottoms and frames a bit loose from years of nail loosening or runners cracking, but these can easily be restored at our shop upon request; typical replacements of drawer runners.

Overall, despite the lengthy condition notes, the desk is absolutely gorgeous and in nearly untouched condition. We would not recommend any restoration (other than tightening the drawers), as it is stunning and entirely enjoyable exactly how it is.

Item ID: 1407JXE27P

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Silla Fine Antiques

Silla Fine Antiques, Shippensburg, PA   

Period American Furniture, French Furnishings, Fine Nineteenth Century Art and Sculpture

Ruby Lane Shop Rating
Silver Rating Silver
Member since 2013

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