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Desk and bookcase

Odessa, Delaware

c. 1775

Maker

Attributed to John Janvier Sr. (1749–1801)

Measurements

105 1/2 in x 45 1/4 in x 24 3/4 in

Materials

Mahogany; tulip poplar* (drawer sides and back), Atlantic white cedar* (drawer bottoms), hard
pine* (drawer blades and nearly full dustboards, small drawer parts)

Credit Line

On loan from Winterthur, gift of Mrs. Earle R. Crowe

Accession Number

1975.81

Inscription

"W.T.G. / 4, 22, 29.” is inscribed into the underside center of the front base rail of the desk; “Wm. CORBIT HOUSE / ODESSA, DELAWARE 1772” is stamped into a metal tag on the upper right corner of the desk back

Condition Notes

The cartouche is a replacement. The front curved facing of the plinth is a replacement that has been increased in height by 1 inch.1 The brasses are replacements. Various modest repairs on the right side include replacement of the molding at the top of the desk section and a short section of the adjoining front molding. The right rear foot facing is a replacement.

Provenance

The desk and bookcase was owned originally by William Corbit, who bequeathed it to Pennell Corbit (1776–1820), his oldest surviving son at the time. It was sold by Pennell’s daughters, Mary Corbit Naudain (1812–1875) and Sarah Corbit Higgins (1810–1871), to Daniel Corbit (1796–1877). It descended through Daniel’s son, Daniel Wheeler Corbit (1843–1922), to Sara Clark Corbit Curtis Levis and was given to Winterthur by her heirs.

Comments

One of two items mentioned in William Corbit's 1818 will (the other being tall clock, acc. no. 1973.119), this clock was made for him, probably about the time he completed his house in 1774.  The desk is made in three parts:  the desk, the bookcase, and a lift-off pediment.  It is carefully constructed of fine mahogany, which conveys visual interest, especially in light of the comparatively little carving on the object.  Unfortunately, whatever carving Janvier might have provided in the pediment is now replaced.  The pediment is among the earliest with pierced latticework.

Bibliography

“Delaware Furniture from Delaware Houses,” exhibition pamphlet, Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, April 5–30, 1950, 3.

Sweeney, Grandeur, 116, pl. 10.

Hotchkiss, “Odessa Furniture Returns,” 101.

Sweeney, “Corbit-Sharp House,” 879, pl. V.

Norcini, “John Janvier, Sr.,” pl. III.

Zimmerman, A Storied Past, 68-70.