VERY RARE AND FINE CLASSICAL CARVED MAHOGANY CABINET-FORM SECRETARY BOOKCASE
In the Manner of Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854)
New York c. 1820
The flat oblong pediment top over a tall case having a pair of paneled cabinet doors with glazed arched and Gothic tracery windows in the top half flanked by pilasters with acanthus carved capitals, opening to a bookcase with four adjustable shelves bisected by a fall front secretary section with stacked short drawers with original stamped brass pulls flanking the fall front writing surface, all resting on a base raised on acanthus carved animal paw feet and turned legs in back.
H: 80” W: 55” D: 19”
Condition: Excellent: The bronze keyhole escutcheon mounts are modern replacements for missing mounts, probably of this design, for which pinholes near the keyholes are unmistakable evidence. The bronze astragal molding replacement for the missing original. Replaced molded cornice on proper right pilaster. Some veneer replacements on bottom case rail. Re-finished with shellac in the manner of the period.
This handsome and useful form has no known counterparts in American classical furniture and may be unique. The form is seen in plate 732 of Pierre de La Mésangère’s Collection des Meubles et Objets de Goût (Paris, 1832-1834) and M. Paul Cornu’s reprint of a selection of Mésangère’s plates, Meubles et Objets de Goût (Paris, 1900), pl. 109, where it is described as a Bibliothèque. This design, in the Restauration taste, must be predicated on an unpublished model at least fifteen years older, as the present example clearly pre-dates the Mésangère drawing. It is not clear from the drawing if the design incorporates a secretary section.
Mésangère’s plates were published serially from 1802 to 1835, a few plates at a time, in cahiers or albums as a supplement to the Journal des Dames et de Modes. These designs, already in production in France, heavily influenced both English and American designers. Related cabinet bookcases do not seem to appear in English pattern books of the period.