Box Sofa, about 1820
Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770–1854; active 1794–1847), New York
Rosewood, and mahogany (feet), partially paint-grained rosewood and gilded (secondary woods: ash and black cherry), with ormolu mounts, die-stamped brass inlay inset with rosewood, brass line inlay, gilt-brass sabots and castors, and upholstery
33 3/4 in. high, 82 in. long, 27 1/4 in. deep
This sofa is part of an extraordinary group of New York furniture, largely made in rosewood, that displays an ultimate sense of design, flawless workmanship, embellishment with French ormolu mounts of the best quality, and brass line and die-stamped inlay, the latter often in intricate designs. The group of furniture consists of several secretaires à abattants (among them, see Peter M. Kenny, Frances F. Bretter, and Ulrich Leben, Honoré Lannuier, Cabinet Maker from Paris: The Life and Work of a French Ebeniste in Federal New York, exhib. cat. [New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998], p. 92 fig. 49; and Robert Smith, "The Furniture of Anthony G. Quervelle -Part IV: Some case pieces," in The Magazine Antiques CV [January 1974], p. 181 fig. 1); two monumental cylinder secretaries (one, The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts; see Rodney Armstrong, "The Boston Athenaeum and its furnishings," in The Magazine Antiques CXXXVI [August 1989], p. 314 Pl. XIII, and the other, private collection; see photograph in Hirschl & Adler archives); a sofa (Jenrette collection; see "Edgewater on the Hudson: Drawing Room, Collection of Richard Hampton Jenrette," in Winter Antiques Show Journal, p. 39 no. 1); a recamier sofa (private collection; photograph in Hirschl & Adler archives); several center tables (among them, the collection of Museum of the City of New York; see Wendy A. Cooper, Classical Taste in America, exhib. cat. [Baltimore Museum of Art and Abbeyville Press, 1993], p. 128 no. 88), card tables (among them, private collection; see: Neo-Classicism in America - Inspiration and Innovation 1810-1840, exhib. cat. [New York: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, 1991), p. 37 no. 20]; two pier table-form sideboards, one in a private collection (see Peter M. Kenny et al., pp. 93 Pl. 44), and another in a private collection (photograph in Hirschl & Adler archives), that were assembled in a paper delivered in the symposium titled "A Tale of Two Cities–Fine Furniture-Making in Paris and New York in a New Republican Age, 1790–1820," that accompanied the exhibition titled Honoré Lannuier, Cabinet Maker from Paris: The Life and Work of a French Ebeniste in Federal New York at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was conjectured that these pieces are probably the work of Duncan Phyfe, in specific response to the elaborate ormolu-enriched furniture produced in New York by the French emigré cabinetmaker Charles-Honoré Lannuier.
Like all the pieces in this group, this sofa is tightly composed and stands significantly above the vernacular production of the period. Although we have learned that the presence of identical ormolu mounts does not in itself form a serious basis for attribution, nevertheless, it is worth noting that the three mounts on the seat rail of this sofa are repeated on other works in this group, the central mount appearing also on the card table cited above (see Neo-Classicism in America, loc. cit.), as well as a trestle-base card table (with Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 2002; formerly collection of Israel Sack, Inc., New York; see American Antiques from the Israel Sack Collection, IX , p. 2442 no. P6037), and the side mounts duplicating ones found on a lyre-base card table (private collection; see Kenny et al., p. 93 Pl. 45), a pair of trestle-base card tables (private collection; see photographs in Hirschl & Adler archives), and another pair of card tables formerly in the collection of Ronald S. Kane (see catalogue, sale 7822, Christie's, New York, The Collection of Ronald S. Kane, January 22, 1994, no. 379 illus.).