Secrétaire à Abattant, about 1820–25
Attributed to [Thomas] Emmons (1784/85–1825) and [George] Archbald (1790–1870), Boston (active together 1814-25)
Mahogany and bird’s eye maple (secondary woods: ash, mahogany, maple, pine, and poplar, partially ebonized and partially gilded), with ormolu mounts, die-rolled gilt-brass moldings filled with lead, marble, mirror plate (in front of the mirror), and leather, variously blind-stamped and gilded
57 3/16 in. high, 37 1/4 in. wide, 19 3/4 in. deep; 34 in. deep with fall front open
Other than its Boston provenance, it is the ebonized bun feet encircled by die-rolled gilt-brass moldings filled with lead that speak most loudly and succinctly of its origin in Boston. Indeed, the design of this typically Boston detail, which is not seen elsewhere, appears frequently on Boston pier tables of the period (see Stuart P. Feld, Boston in the Age of Neo-Classicism, exhib. cat. [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1999], p. 47 no. 14 illus.), as well as on several chests of drawers (p. 51 no. 17 illus.) and work tables (pp. 52 no. 18, 53 no. 19 illus.). Of the dozen or so Boston secretaries of this form that have appeared, only two others use the same foot (private collection: photograph in Hirschl & Adler archives; and location unknown, see catalogue, sale 6660, Sotheby’s, New York, January 24, 26, 27, and 30, 1995, no. 2159 illus.). Additionally, this very beautiful secretary features a variety of French ormolu mounts of the best quality, including capitals and bases, a large mount on the upper frieze drawer, and, most unusually for Boston, a mount centering the outside of the fall front. On the interior, there is the usual assortment of drawers, here detailed with blown clear glass knobs, and, above, a series of four columns, brilliantly veneered in bird’s eye maple and set off by turned giltwood capitals and bases, all placed in front of a background of mirror plate flanked by vertical strips of gilded wood.