FINE AND RARE FEDERAL SCROLL-BACK CANED SOFA
In the Manner of Duncan Phyfe
New York, c. 1807
The four rear legs running up to become reeded, scrolled styles and forming three crest-rail panels with two panels holding vertical flutes which flank the central panel having relief-carved festoons tied with a bowknot and tassels. The crest above conforming back panels with caning. The scrolled reeded arms, above caned side panels, terminating above turned conical rest supports with a delicate lobed base. The unadorned elliptic seat frame supported by four turned and reeded front legs with brass ball and socket feet. Casters on the rear legs.
H: 36½” W: 72½” D: 25½”
Condition: Excellent: Repair to rail at juncture with left leg, minor veneer patches, small patch to proper right arm at the scrolled end. The brass ball and socket feet may be replacements for casters. Later mattress upholstered in black horsehair.
Balloon Seat Examples
At least ten Sheraton Federal scroll-back caned sofas from New York are known to us. Most are in important museum collections. One with reeded balloon seat and “sweeping elbow” curved arms is in the collection at Winterthur and a related one is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A third, with balloon seat, curved arms and laurel carved in the central crest panel, is illustrated by Nancy McClelland, Phyfe’s first biographer. Another example is in the collection of the Telfair Museum in the Owens-Thomas House but this may be the same one illustrated by McClelland.
Elliptic Seat Examples
A forth, with elliptic seat, is at the Yale University Art Gallery. A fifth, also with elliptic seat, in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, is pictured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2011 exhibition catalog Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York. One is illustrated in the Metropolitan’s 1922 exhibition catalog, Furniture Masterpieces of Duncan Phyfe, plate XIV, however, this appears to be the example now at Yale. Michael Brown, co-author of the Metropolitan Museum’s recent exhibition catalog, notes that Phyfe billed his client, William Bayard, for four caned sofas in 1807 but only the illustrated sofa is known to have survived.  Ginsberg & Levy advertised a caned example with reeded, elliptic seat and festoons flanking thunderbolts in the crest rail, in the Magazine Antiques of March 1967, and a seventh closely related to the Ginsburg & Levy sofa sold at Sotheby’s in June 1993, with an Israel Sack provenance. A pair of settees with central panels with thunderbolts flanked by panels with drapery swags is in the collection of The White House.
The authors of the Metropolitan Museum’s 2011 study of the work of Duncan Phyfe note, “By 1810, the scroll-back caned sofa was the epitome of fashion and the most costly piece of seating available to New Yorkers.”
Only a few years after this sofa was made, style changed to the Grecian form, which can be seen here.
 Telfair Museum object no. OT1964.16
 See Charles F. Montgomery, American Furniture: The Federal Period (New York: Viking Press, 1966), 313, and, Patricia E. Kane, 300 Years of American Seating Furniture (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976), 245, and Nancy McClelland, Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency 1795-1830 (New York: William R. Scott, Inc., 1939), 165, Peter M. Kenny and Michael K. Brown Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), 162-163, pl. 4, and Charles Over Cornelius, Furniture Masterpieces by Duncan Phyfe (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1922), 26, pl. XIV.
 Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families (Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2000), 242, 266.
 Kenny and Brown, pl. 4, 162-163.