Chippendale Mahogany Carved and Mahogany Veneer Slant-lid Oxbow Serpentine Desk, attributed to William King, Salem, Massachusetts, c. 1780, the thumbmolded lid opens to an interior of a central fan-carved and concave blocked drawer and two graduated drawers below, flanked by two valanced compartments, fan-carved drawers, and three drawers, above a serpentine case of four cockbeaded graduated drawers, on four gadroon-carved cabriole legs ending in claw and ball feet, with conformingly carved knee returns, centering a shaped, scroll-carved and pierced drop pendant, original brass pulls and escutcheons, old finish, (minor imperfections), ht. 44 3/4, wd. 42, dp. 23 1/2 in.
Provenance: Timothy Pickering, Salem, Massachusetts.
Literature: For a chest of drawers with similarly gadroon-carved base and pierced drop pendant, see The Magazine Antiques, January, 1930, p. 31; and Fales, Dean A., Essex County Furniture: Documented Treasures from Local Collections 1660-1860, Essex Institute loan exhibition catalogue, 1965, fig. 25; Additional similar gadrooning appears on a desk illustrated in The Magazine Antiques, November, 1944, p. 263. The latter example sold at Christie's New York, in January 1983 at the sale of the contents of The Lindens, the Washington, D.C., home of Mr. and Mrs. George Maurice Morris. Both examples listed above have been associated with William King, of Salem, Massachusetts.
Note: Timothy Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in July 1745. He graduated from Harvard University in 1763, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1768, serving for some time as Register of Deeds for Essex County. Initially, Pickering was reluctant to sever ties with Great Britain but reconsidered his position and played a vital role in the Revolution's success. He accepted General Washington's offer to become Adjutant General of the American army and was present at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. Pickering even published, "An Easy Plan of Discipline for a Militia," that was used by the Continental Army. Eventually he assumed one of the most important positions in the American cause, becoming Washington's Quartermaster General, thereby helping ensure that Washington could keep his army in the field and adequately supplied. He participated in the march to Virginia, where he was present at the surrender of Cornwallis. During his military career, he was widely praised for his vital work in supplying the troops. Pickering served in President's Washington's cabinet beginning in 1791, serving first as Postmaster General (1791-95), briefly as Secretary of War (1795) and eventually as Secretary of State (1795-1800). He continued as Secretary of State under President John Adams, who was elected in 1796. Pickering and Adams quarreled over Adams' plan to make peace with France, and Adams dismissed Pickering from his post in May 1800. Pickering was then elected to the U.S. Senate in 1803 as a senator from Massachusetts. He lost his senate seat in 1811, and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1813, where he remained until 1816. A strong Federalist, Pickering's Congressional career is best remembered for his playing a leadership role in the New England secession movement, the Essex Junto, which was a group of New England merchants and lawyers (so named because most were from Essex County, Massachusetts), who opposed the radicals in Massachusetts during the American Revolution and supported the Federalist faction of Alexander Hamilton. After Pickering was denied re-election in 1816, he went to his farm near Wenham, Massachusetts, but eventually retired to Salem in 1820, where he lived until his death in January 1829.