Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854)

New York, c. 1825

The circular Arabascato-Carrara marble top with reeded edge on a conforming faux-grained apron with gilt decoration in three panels with stenciled, scrolled foliage centering a scallop shell separated by dies with a double-headed harp.  The tapering faux-grained pedestal with stenciled anthemia has an acanthus carved and gilded base with lotus carved and gilded collar on a tripartite base with stenciled anthemia on the top side of each leg and lotus leaf stenciling around the sides.  The base raised on carved animal paw feet with vert-antique paint decoration and gilded foliate scrolls extending to brackets under the legs.  The feet are raised on recessed brass casters. 

Construction notes:

The faux-graining is painted on tiger maple veneer.[1]  The cross brace is dovetailed into the apron, construction associated with Phyfe.  The pedestal is double-tenoned into the cross brace and doweled into the base.  The collar at the top of the column relates to those on other documented Phyfe center tables of the period. Woods: Tiger-maple apron and legs, mahogany pedestal, white pine feet and brackets, cherry cross brace.

H: 30″  Diameter: 34″


Very good: The lotus and acanthus carved gilt-wood collar at the base of the pedestal appears to have been gilded twice although the second gilding is the same color as the original and is practically inseparable from it.  Surface cleaned, minor restoration of stenciling and toes, small veneer chips and the tips of some brackets. The marble top is period.  The casters are replaced. The modern ply board has been inserted inside the apron ring for greater structural stability and can be removed.

The stencil and pen-work decoration on this table is in an elite league shared with only a few pieces of American furniture, all illustrated in Peter Kenny and Michael Brown’s definitive catalog,  Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York, (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), including a pair of pier tables, (p. 219, pl. 39), the pair of window benches, (p. 211, pl. 34), and the center table, (p. 221, pl. 40).  Kenny describes the pier table stenciling as “spectacular.”

Related Examples

There are four other known center tables in this group by Duncan Phyfe, each with variations. They all share the distinctive acanthus leaf carving and lotus leaf collar at the base of the column and the equally distinctive acanthus leaf and scrolled brackets above the carved paw feet.   They are linked to Phyfe through the provenance of the table at Winterthur Museum (#1957.0944), which was made for Robert Donaldson (1800-1872), Phyfe’s most important known client of the 1820s.[2]  That table is most closely related to the present example.  The three others have fluted columns.

The most elaborate of the group is in the collection the Museum of the City of New York.  Originally owned by real estate investor Stephen C. Whitney, it has anthemion stenciling on the top bordering a painted scagliola inset, a fluted column and a die-stamped, inlaid brass border around the base.[3]  A third table is in the collection of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust at “Edgewater,” Barrytown, NY.[4]   The fourth table of the group is at “Vizcaya”, the Italianate villa and pleasure palace created by James Deering in Miami at the beginning of the 20th century.  The Vizcaya example is closely related to the MCNY table, even having the same stenciling on the apron, but has a later wood top. The present example appears to be the only gilt-stenciled tiger-maple center table in the group.


[1] A faux-grained, figured maple pier table, probably by Phyfe, sold at Sotheby’s in the collection of Berry B. Tracy, January 2, 1985, lot 766, and again at Sotheby’s in January 1999, lot 798. 

[2] Peter M. Kenny and Michael K. Brown, Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), 208, pl.32.

[3] Ibid, 220-221, pl. 40.

[4] Richard Hampton Jenrette, Adventures with Old Houses (Charleston: Wyrick & Co., 2000), 92-3, 99.  This table has a replaced “Egyptian” marble top.

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