Townsend Block Front Chest

John Townsend made the original of this chest in 1765. It now resides in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Like the original, the chest is made of mahogany from Costa Rica and Belize. John Townsend was one of the premier cabinetmakers in the 18th century and of the Townsend-Goddard style of woodworking from Newport, Rhode Island. This chest measures 34 ½ x 37 ½ x 20 ¾ inches. The secondary wood is tulip poplar like the original. The Newport furniture design differs from those of Philadelphia and Boston. In Philadelphia and Boston, the largest cities in colonial America, craftsmen were highly influenced by English styles: affluent members of American society strove to be accepted by their British counterparts and wanted their furnishings to emulate the “mother country.” The Newport furniture makers developed a uniquely American art form that involved design with striking proportions and the use of ornamentation. The bonnet-top high chest, the most popular and fashionable piece of case work of the 18th century, was developed in Boston. Newport took this piece and made it richer by adding a shell motif to the blocking. This shell became the signature feature and emblem of Newport furniture and is very evident in Townsend’s work.

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Three-Shell Block Front Chest