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Tall-Case Clock, ca. 1780

Maker: Goddard Townsend Family (Newport, Rhode Island), American, active ca. 1747 - 1780

Medium: Mahogany

88 x 19 x 10 in. (223.5 x 48.3 x 25.4 cm)

Credit Line: Bequest of Julie Isenberg

Object Number: 87.20.34

Not on view

Israel Sack, New York, New York 1954; Julie Isenberg, Memphis, Tennessee, 1987

Prior to the American Revolution, Newport, Rhode Island, was a prosperous seaport whose wealthy merchants created a demand for fine furniture that resulted in the production of some of the most notable pieces in 18th-century America. Two families, the Townsends and the Goddards, dominated furniture making in this city for more than a half century. They often intermarried, and their workshops produced furniture that is uniquely American in design and is superbly crafted. Their original designs and unique sculptural forms rivaled the finest accomplishments of English craftsmen.


The case of this clock exhibits the most distinctive characteristic of the Goddard-Townsend workshopsthe blending of raised blocking with an undulating, multilobed shell on the door. While the use of the shell was common to the work of the entire family, the distinctive treatment of this shell is identical to that on a chest signed by Daniel Goddard. The thirteen concave lobes radiating from a central rosette of seven petals allows its attribution to his hand.1 The reserved yet powerful effect of this piece in the Baroque style is enhanced by the use of finely grained West Indian mahogany, the delicate ogee bracket feet, and the architectural hood with its fluted columns, heavily molded arched pediment, and flame-shaped finials, which provide a final vertical dynamism.


The movement of the clock is unsigned. The painted dial, however, was imported from England and is stamped on the back-plate with the name of James Wilson, one of the earliest recorded makers of painted dials. Wilson worked in Birmingham between 1778 and about 1809.