Subscribe now and save up to 56%
A tall Queen Anne-style chest of drawers in mahogany, built and signed by Rhode Island cabinetmaker John Townsend, was auctioned by Sotheby’s this past weekend. The winning bidder paid more than $3 million. Make that $3.5 million when you tack on the buyer’s premium!
According to the auction catalog, the piece, built in 1756, is Townsend’s earliest surviving high chest. It still has the original finish, hardware and finial. What’s more, this particular chest has been handed down through the generations, within the same family. In an age when factory-made furniture is lucky if it survives two or three generations, that’s food for thought.
And here’s something humbling to ponder while cutting your next set of dovetails. Townsend built the piece when he was just 23 years old. A fitting start to an extraordinary career.
In the grand scheme of period furniture auctions, $3.5-million is actually small potatos. Have a look at these eye-popping auction prices and you’ll see what I mean. Visit Christie’s website for even more record setters.
The Nicholas Brown Chippendale Mahogany Block-and-Shell Carved Desk-and-Bookcase
Townsend, Goddard School, 1760-1770
Sold through Christie’s for $12,100,000, June 3, 1989.
This set a world auction record for any piece of American furniture.
The Sarah Slocum Chippendale Mahogany Block-and-Shell Carved Chest-of-Drawers
Labeled by John Townsend, 1792.
Sold through Christie’s for 4,732,500, June 18, 1998.
This set a world auction record for a chest-of-drawers.
The Hollingsworth Family Chippendale Carved Walnut High Chest-of-Drawers, Matching Dressing Table, and Side Chair
Thomas Affleck, 1765-1775
Sold through Christie’s for $2,972,500, January 16, 1998.
This set a world auction record for a suite of Philadelphia furniture.
A Chippendale Carved Mahogany Tea Table
Sold through Christie’s for $2,422,500, January 1995.
This set a world auction record for an American tea table.
Get woodworking tips, expert advice and special offers in your inbox
Become a member today
Get instant access to all FineWoodworking.com content.
Subscribe to Fine Woodworking
Save up to 56%
So what are you telling us? We should try to pass down works of art that will bring fortunes to future heirs in the next century? I better get started (on more heirs, not furniture).
I wonder what Tommy MacDonald got for his bombe chest a couple of years ago. The one that got him started on his Rough Cut webcast before the PBS show.
Now THAT was funny!
On the same weekend the document box below sold for $3,400,000 at Christie's aucton house.
Our Period Furniture Group are currently working on reproductions of the piece.
Assuming an initial price of $10, that's an annual yield of just over 5%.
A beautiful piece, to be sure. It's a shame we can't bypass the initial-user market, and jump directly to the collector market. ;-)
The court battle continues between Bosch and Sawstop
Grids and cutouts define a practical piece
Fast, fun approach to making a comfortable, casual seat
In this video Michael finishes the first of the three boxes. Gluing-up, planing, sanding and finishing bring a new piece of art to the world.
In this video Michael starts work on the second box, a carved and painted Saddle lid box.
Michael begins carving the saddle lid box with his ripple pattern along the top. Then turns to his 5/30 gouge to texture the sides of the box. This isn't work…
Become a member today and get instant access to all FineWoodworking.com content!
Plus tips, advice, and special offers from Fine Woodworking.
In-depth online classes from the experts at Fine Woodworking.
Browse our collection of hundreds of quality plans including Shaker furniture, Arts and Crafts pieces, beds, diy plans, chairs, workbenches, tool storage, and more.
© 2016 The Taunton Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
Become a member and get instant access to thousands of videos, how-tos, tool reviews, and design features.