American Classical Furniture

Eagle-Carved Parcel-Gilt Card Table by Duncan Phyfe

Highly Important Eagle-Carved, Gilt and Vert-Antique Decorated Brass-Inlaid Rosewood Games Table

Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854)

New York c.1815

The hinged swiveling oblong top with canted corners, brass stringing and burl wood cross banding, opening to a well lined with patterned paper, the case with a conforming apron, the canted corners paneled with burl wood, the top edge and apron bottom decorated with brass stringing, above a pair of outward-facing gilt and vert-antique painted, carved eagles, supported in the rear by gilded and painted baluster and ring turned posts all raised on an abacus shaped base its sides punctuated by gilded rosettes and at the corners, four gilt and vert-antique decorated acanthus carved hocked legs with gilded acanthus carved brackets in front, extending beneath the base to almost touch each other, the animal paw feet raised on brass casters.

H: 30½”  W: 36”  D: 18½”


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Own an Important Piece of History


Highly Important Ebonized and Gilt Bronze-Mounted Rosewood Secrétaire À Abattant

SECRÉTAIRE À ABATTANT by Duncan Phyfe, New York, c. 1820.  Fall front desk open revealing a symmetrical interior with three short drawers across the top above a stacked pair of cubby holes flanking a mirrored compartment above three stacked pairs of drawers, the drawers in King wood with gilt-bronze appliques and pulls.
SECRÉTAIRE À ABATTANT by Duncan Phyfe, New York, c. 1820. The fall front desk, closed, its facade bordered by inlaid brass banding and a gilt-bronze escutcheon mount, above a pair of cabinet doors, all flanked by a pair of veneered columns with gilt-bronze capitals and bases, raised on foliate-carved, parcel-gilt animal paw feet.



Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854)

New York  c.1820

The oblong white marble pediment top with reeded edge above an upright case with a conforming ebonized knife-edge molding over a gilt bronze-mounted frieze above a gilt bronze-mounted and cut brass inlaid fall front opening to a desk with a leather writing surface and a series of vertically arranged small drawers and pigeonholes separated by gilt-bronze appliqués, centering a mirrored compartment flanked by ebonized colonnetts with gilt-bronze capitals and bases; the desk above a pair of paneled bronze-mounted and cut brass inlaid cabinet doors; the case flanked by a pair of bronze-mounted and veneered cylindrical pillars and raised on carved giltwood and verde-antique decorated foliate and animal paw feet.  The back paneled and bearing a brass plaque inscribed: Belonged to John Wheeler Leavitt, made to order for him by French Cabinet Maker, New York, 1830

H: 60”  W: 40”  D: 19”

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Where American History Meets American Craftsmanship

Plain-Style Mahogany Grecian Couch by Duncan Phyfe

Restauration Grecian or “Recamier” Couch, circa 1835

Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854) or D. Phyfe and Sons (active 1837-1840)

New York, circa 1835

The undulating veneered crest rail terminating in a scroll with a characteristic rimmed disk boss above an upholstered back and seat with a scrolled arm at one end with a matching rimmed disk boss in the volute. The highly figured seat rail raised on flat rectangular legs terminating in suppressed demilune feet with recessed casters.

H: 34″ L: 74″  D: 24″

Condition: Excellent: Minor abrasions to veneer, re-finished with shellac in the manner of the period. Modern upholstery.

The attribution to Duncan Phyfe is based on very closely related couches documented to Phyfe and published in Nancy McClelland’s Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency and in Peter Kenny’s Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York. One couch, was made by D. Phyfe & Sons for Phyfe’s daughter, Eliza, and her husband William Vail, Jr. This is almost identical to the present example. A second example, made by D. Phyfe and Son, circa 1841 for Governor John Laurence Manning of Millford Plantation, South Carolina, is also closely related with identical arm, legs, feet and seat rail. A third example, a pair of couches in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is attributed to Phyfe on the basis of family tradition and close relationship to the two aforementioned pieces, all bearing the same signature rimmed convex disk bosses, a device recognized as a Phyfe design.

The scrolled-end form, derived from ancient Greek and Roman day beds with “fulcrum ends,” was adopted by furniture designers of the early 19th century and used on beds, sofas and couches. Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 portrait of Madam Récamier posing on a Grecian couch, among other such paintings by David, connected the Grecian style to the revolutionary spirit of Republicanism and received wide exposure. American cabinetmakers would have known the form through multiple publications showing multiple iterations such as Pierre de la Mésangère’s 1805 Lit romain (pl. 171), Lit étrusque (pl. 178), and 1829 Restoration-style Canepé (pl. 656). English designs such as Thomas Sheraton’s 1803 Grecian Squab (pl. 50), and George Smith’s 1808 French Bed for Recess and Chaise Longue (pls. 63, 64, 65, 66), would also have been very influential.

The unadorned style of this couch, now referred to as Grecian Plain-Style, is closely related to the French Restauration style of Louis XVIII and Charles X and was popular in the United States throughout the 1830s. Phyfe’s firm was the uncontested master of this style in America.

Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854), considered the most important American cabinetmaker of the first half of the 19th century, worked at Partition Street (renamed Fulton Street in 1816) in New York City from 1793 through 1847. Famous and highly successful, Phyfe ran a large workshop and produced furniture throughout his long career in all the latest styles. As a fashion leader, Phyfe introduced New York to a succession of styles inspired by the renowned designers Robert Adam (1728-1792), George Hepplewhite (d.1786) and Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) in England, and the Directoire, Empire and Restoration periods in France. His clients included the great merchant and banking elite of the city, as well as wealthy and discriminating buyers from Boston to New Orleans. An innovative designer, superior craftsman and carver, Phyfe’s name is synonymous with the finest New York furniture of the period.