All Columns in Alphabetical Order

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sotheby's Americana - Rediscovered and Undocumented High Chest by John Townsend from 1756

Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that its New York auction of Important Americana on 20 & 21 January 2012 will feature a previously undocumented high chest of drawers by renowned cabinetmaker John Townsend, which represents one of the most important discoveries of American furniture to come to light in decades. Signed and dated in 1756 when Townsend was 23 years old, The Exceptional Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Arnold Shell-Carved and Figured Mahogany High Chest of Drawers with Open Talons stands as his earliest surviving high chest, as well as one of the two earliest known works by his hand (est. $2/3 million).

The chest was originally owned by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Arnold (1725-1789) and Mary Oliver Arnold (1725-1762) of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, who commissioned it on the occasion of their marriage in 1756. It has survived in their family for 255 years, having descended through six generations of female lines of the Arnold-Wightman-Wickes branches of their family to the current owner, Oliver Arnold’s great-great-great-great granddaughter. The work remains in remarkably untouched condition, and retains its original surface and all of its original parts.

“This sale represents a rare opportunity to purchase one of the most extraordinary and historically significant pieces of American furniture to ever come to auction,” commented Leslie Keno, Director of Sotheby’s American Furniture & Decorative Arts department in New York. “In my 33 years at Sotheby’s, I have never seen anything quite like this high chest. In addition to its masterful execution and extremely fine state of preservation, it carries a direct history of descent through successive generations of the same family. Before my colleague Erik Gronning and I discovered it hidden on the upper floor of an early house in New England, almost no one outside of the family had laid eyes on it. We are thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to offer this supreme masterwork at auction.”

Back to TOP