American Classical Carved Mahogany and Canned Grecian Sofa
American Classical Figured Mahogany Dressing Table
With the hallmarks of Duncan Phyfe’s shop—well-figured mahogany veneers, molding around the drawers, handsome cross-banding, bold reeding on the front and rear legs, crisp paw feet and lion’s-head pulls—this sideboard is an excellent example of Phyfe’s early work. Similar in style but much smaller is a sideboard of ca. 1812 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.1Tracy et al., no. 18.
Relatively plain in carving and decorative inlays, the Collection’s sideboard, like other case pieces attributed to Phyfe and his fellow New York cabinetmakers (see Acc. No. 80.103), draws its elegant presence from the exuberant use of banded, flame-grained, and swirled veneers and from its bold shape—a series of curves seen in two dimensions from the top and in three dimensions in its overall shape.
Although the shape of the case reflects the earlier Sheraton style, this sideboard also shows the maker’s awareness of more modern English furniture designed by such trendsetters as Thomas Hope and George Smith. Like the Phyfe-attributed sofa in the Collection (Acc. No. 80.79), this sideboard contains elements of the style popular in New York in the early decades of the 19th century: the elaborate use of ornate veneers, and the distinctly articulated lion’s-paw feet frequently found on Egyptian-inspired furniture in the Regency style.2Joy, 91. Along with the brasses, the feet are accurate replacements.
Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.