Desk and Bookcase
Walnut with Yellow Pine & Poplar Secondary
Probably Sussex County
84” H x 40” W x 21” D
The classic, elegant simplicity of design in combination with its unique stylistic details render this desk and bookcase an iconic example of 18th century eastern Virginia furniture. Constructed of black walnut, it is representative of the deeply conservative nature of the early English colonists’ stylistic preferences. Although the clean lines of the case and severe interior give an initial impression of simplicity and unrelieved austerity, a second look reveals a wealth of details that belie the notion and demonstrate a high-level stylish creativity that greatly enhance this familiar form. The case rests on boldly formed bracket feet set off by dramatic forked spurs that are highly unusual and possibly unique to this unknown cabinet maker. Similarly, a closer look at the desk’s interior reveals valences distinguished by their deep scalloping. The vertical dividers, often left plain, are also deeply scalloped but in their own, unique pattern.
This desk is a virtual twin to another example from the same shop in the Colonial Williamsburg Collection discussed as catalogue 141 of Southern Furniture. Both belong to an important group of case furniture attributed to Sussex County in the Virginia Southside by MESDA and Colonial Williamsburg researchers. The construction similarities include mitered interior drawer backs, rear boards set in rabbets on four sides, double mitered fall boards with through tenoned battens, rabbeted base molding, mitered, and blind dovetailed feet.
Condition: Survives with its structural the case integrity intact. The feet were reduced below the spurs approximately 2” and are now restored to full height as originally constructed. The upper door hinges have been returned to their original location, drawer lips, brasses are period but not original, minor repairs to dentil molding, and the old surface which retains early color and patina was consolidated.