Make Millions in Woodworking in only 250 Years
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.
Record-Setting Furniture Auctions
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.