Bronze-Mounted Empire Bureau
In the Manner of Duncan Phyfe
New York, 1820-1825
The bronze-mounted Empire bureau with oblong wood top above a conforming case in the form of a “French bureau” with a projecting frieze with two drawers above three graduated, recessed drawers flanked by pillars with gilt-bronze capitals and bases above turned, lotus-carved, acorn-squash form feet. Secondary wood: Tulip Poplar.
H: 37¼” W: 36¼” D: 21½”
Condition: Excellent; Surviving in pristine condition, refinished with shellac in the manner of the period. Brasses cleaned and re-lacquered in the manner of the period. A period key works in all drawers.
This exact form, called a “commode” was published in 1810 by Pierre de la Mésangère in his influential Collection de meubles et objets de gôut (Paris, 1802-1833), plate 328. This was certainly the inspiration for the present bureau. A related commode published by Mésangère can be found here. A slightly earlier New York Federal Sheraton bureau, possibly by the same shop, can be found here.
The compactness of the case, high quality of the rich figured mahogany, the use of gilt-bronze mounts, the fine dovetailing of the drawers and the chamfered glue blocks, all suggest the hand of a top maker.
Empire bureaus are anything but rare in American furniture, but fine, bronze-mounted examples, ironically, are like hen’s teeth.