Finer American, English, and Continental Antiques and Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
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C. Lyman McCallum, Jr., CEO of Chicora Antiques, Inc., has been proudly serving the needs of connoisseurs of finer 18th and 19th century American, English, and French antiques and decorative arts since 1990. After twenty-years, we have relocated from Charleston to Columbia, South Carolina, and are only open by appointment or show exhibition. By choice, we do not have a retail store, but remain vigorously active in serving our existing clientele as advisers and welcome new clients from our show exhibitions and website offerings. Our emphasis has always been on objects of true rarity, superior quality, originality, form, and condition. All of our merchandise is accompanied with a comprehensive written guarantee of authenticity, condition, and authorship, attribution, and provenance when available. It has been a pleasure establishing long and lasting relationships with our clients and hope you will become acquainted with our merchandise, expertise, scholarship, resources and services of acquiring and the study of material culture.
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OUR FEATURED ITEM
A recently discovered New York City Federal mahogany “French” sideboard, attributed to Duncan Phyfe, 1810-1818
An exceptionally fine and rare New York City Federal mahogany “French” sideboard “table”, attributed to the workshop of Duncan Phyfe, with an ormolu gallery and pineapple finials, circa 1810-1818.
The sideboard was a relatively new form of furniture in the late eighteenth century. Until the 1780s, rooms of the “well-to-do” were multifunctional. As activities during the day occurred, so did the placement of furniture. Before the advent of the sideboard, meals were most often taken in a household room where it most temperate, comfortable, and convenient. Dining tables existed, but they were made of “drop-leaf” form. When not in use, they were placed against a wall, and only removed when a meal was served. Pembroke tables, sometimes referred to as “breakfast” tables, were commonplace objects for the upper-classes on both sides of the Atlantic and were employed for meals, as well as for “tea taking” when entertaining.
In his publication, The English designer, George Hepplewhite is credited for designing the first sideboard table as we know it today. In his, “The Cabinet-Maker and Upholster’s Guide, or, Repository of Designs for Every Article of Household Furniture, in the Newest and Most Approved Tastes…” published in 1788, London, 1788 he wrote:
THE great utilitary of this piece has procured it a very general reception; and the convenience it affords render a dining room incomplete without [one].
It is interesting to note that it may have been George Washington who introduced the sideboard to America. He had two ordered for his home, “Mount Vernon”, in the early 1790s.
American Federal sideboards from New York City in the “French” fashion were the most fashionable and costly form available to the consumer in the 1810s. The origin of the fiercely bold and architectonic design of these pieces, along with the Greco-Roman details with which they were frequently embellished, were largely derived from the schematic drawings and works of the noted French architects, Charles Percier and Pierre Francois Leonard Fontaine, who were true inventors and major advocates of the rich and grand, consciously archaeological versions of Neoclassicism that we now recognize as the “Directoire Style” (1795-1799) and later, the French Empire style (1799-1814). French tastes in household furnishing and decorative arts had permeated America in the second decade on the nineteenth century, in part due to The Embargo Act of 1807, which was a result of the Napoleonic Wars. This general embargo was enacted by The United States Congress against the United Kingdom and France, which closed most European harbors to American shipping vessels, unless they first traded through British controlled ports. This caused a great deal of resentment from American citizens, who had been actively trading with England for decades. This hindrance and disdain for Britain,and their products, resulted in American consumers to seek French made goods as an alternative. French styles in the New Republic reached epidemic levels in virtually all urban areas in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Impressive and functional, “French” form sideboards were generally monumental in scale, architectural, had exotic and brilliantly figured matched veneers of crotch mahogany,and suited rooms of the Neo-classical era well indeed. They are characterized by three, sometimes four, upper drawers that overlap the case, with four veneered columns, often tipped with Doric capitals, and four lower cupboard doors. All of these features were used to describe a “French” sideboard in the 1810 New York price book.
“The instant popularity of this form is clearly asserted by the New York price book, which in 1796, it’s initial edition, specifies no fewer than seven variations. By 1810, the options had been narrowed down to three: “A Straight Front Celleret Sideboard”, “ A French Sideboard”, and “A Pedestal End Sideboard”. The last mentioned, its matching ends designed either for a pair of knife cases or for lamps, was the most popular model in New York, and elsewhere, such as Baltimore. These were so popular, in fact, that between about 1805 and 1815, a woodcut of the form was employed as a frontispiece to the aforementioned volume“. Peter M. Kenny.
Not surprisingly, these sideboards were made by all the very best cabinetshops in Federal New York City. What is astonishing and very surprising is the notable absence of this early form in today’s market place. The author has found less than a dozen known, documented, and photographed Federal period examples of the form from New York City. With the exception of four, the other examples are in institutions. Later examples of the form are more frequently encountered, most particularly after 1825. The workshop of Joseph Meeks & Sons issued a broadside in lithograph form in 1833 which shows two sideboards in a less ornamental style, which became known as “pedestal-end” sideboards.
Shown above: An example of the form in an 1813 New York newspaper advertisement, by the New York City cabinetshop of Elam Williams (active dates currently unknown) which clearly illustrates the growing popularity of the type.
THE NEW YORK CITY CABINET-TRADE:
Known by scholars as being notoriously aggressive and competitive, the business of cabinetmaking in Federal New York City was exceptionally complex. The business required the skilled hands of dozens of tradesmen who were trained in England, Scotland, Ireland, and France. The best and larger workshops were comprised of a “Master” cabinetmaker, journeymen, apprentices, carvers, turners, joiners, sometimes gilders, and usually at least one “shop” boy, who was under the age of fourteen, some even as young as twelve. As workshops increased their productivity, it was not uncommon for the “Master” cabinetmaker, or the foremen, to take on the role as a manager of sorts, in order to insure that the wares being made were of the highest standard. Each workshop had a current price book, which were printed lists of prices and charges for the cabinetmaker. These were issued in Great Britain and America and they were essential to the cabinetmaking industry.
“The prices in these books provided the basis of employer~employee contracts, much like union contracts with steel and motor car industries today” “American Furniture-The Federal Period, 1788-1825″, page 19, by Charles F. Montgomery, a Winterthur book, published 1978.
Although the exact figure is debatable, recent scholarship has shown that as many as 300 cabinetmakers were at work in New York City in any given year between 1810 and 1820, and many of them were capable of rendering high-quality wares. Additionally, it was standard practice for a cabinetshop to “outsource” specific cabinetwork to members of, often, competing cabinetshops, to perform work, such as carving. This interaction amongst workshops makes it extremely difficult for any scholar to attribute a specific piece of furniture to a certain workshop. There are exceptions to this general rule, but in the broadest sense, without a label, strong provenance, signature, or original bill of sale, linking a piece of furniture to a certain workshop is a haphazard affair.
A very fine American Federal sideboard, from New York City, circa 1810-1818, ascribed to the workshop of Duncan Phyfe. It is very important and extremely fortunate that the author has found a virtually indistinguishable mate to the New York City “French” style mahogany sideboard presented for sale here, that was formerly in the collection of The Late Louis Guerineau Myers, which is shown in on page 82 of the famous auction held in New York City in 1932, by “The American Art Association~Anderson Galleries”. The sideboard was lot #345 and was described as follows:
“Empire Carved Mahogany Sideboard, Duncan Phyfe, New York, circa 1815. The front in beautifully crotched light mahogany banded with cross cut mahogany contains three drawers with brass lion-mask and ring handles, above four doors enclosing cupboards; flanking the cupboards are reeded columns with acanthus leaf capitals and molded plinth, supported by on lion paw feet; the rear supports are of conventional baluster type. At each end is a drawer-out shelf just below the top, which is bordered with a gallery composed of a back panel finely figured, and a balustered rail at each end. Height 49″, Width 6’” [sic]
This sideboard was sold at the beginning of The Great Depression for $150.; a sizable sum at the time.
As difficult as it may seem, when the “Myers” sideboard is compared to the sideboard subject to this narrative, the two are virtually identical, with the exception of the Myers’ example that lacks finials of any sort. A thorough examination by a high-powered lens reveals starling similarities even in the figured crotch veneers of both sideboards, which strongly suggests that the two may have been veneered using the same board of crotch mahogany. Additionally asserting a strong attribution to the Duncan Phyfe, or possibly the Charles H. Lannuier workshop is the use of vertical fluting on all three sideboard’s lower skirts. Comparing the present sideboard to the Myers’ example, the labelled Charles H. Lannuier example, and one shown in the landmark book, “Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency 1795-1830“, by Nancy McClelland, provides tantalizing evidence that they were all made by the same cabinetshop. Undoubtedly, the present sideboard is of the highest order, an exuberant, and robust idiom 0f the form which displays superb workmanship in attention to construction and detail, however without documentation or any history of family ownership, it is difficult to justify assigning the piece to the any specific shop.
CONDITION: Exceptionally good. The finish was tested and it was determined to be organic and possibly original. The brass pulls have been replaced, but are of the period 1800-1810 and have their original “ormolu” gilt “lemon” colored surfaces. The brass galleries flanking each side are original and retain their original screws. The locks of the lower cupboard doors are twentieth century replacements. The hinges of the lower case doors are complete and original. The upper drawers never had locks and the center drawer has a felt-lined compartmented interior, which post-dates the circa date of the sideboard. The sideboard has no major repairs of alterations. The “pineapple” finials appear to be original.
PROVENANCE:The sideboard was discovered by an antiques dealer several decades ago in a home in Hudson, New York. Unfortunately, no other history in known, despite the author’s best efforts.
DIMENSIONS: 79 1/2″ in width, 26″ in depth, 54 1/2″ in height (top of highest finial).
There is only one known labelled New York “French” sideboard in existence made by Charles H. Lannuier, which is labelled, and is in the permanent collection of “The Metropolitan Museum of Art~American Wing”, New York City, gift of Mr. Fenton L.B. Brown, 1972, and is shown below.
Shown below: Lot 373 A Classical Carved Mahogany Sideboard, New York, circa 1815. Christies, New York “Important American Furniture and Decorative Arts; The Ronald S. Kane Collection”, New York, January 22nd, 1994.
“The rectangular top with tiered splashboard with cockbeaded top edge separated by paneled plinths surmounted with carved pineapples which retain their original “verte antico” paint and gilding, flanked by a columned brass gallery above beaded slides on the case sides, the front with an apron fitted with two short drawer centering s long drawer with lion’s-head brass pulls divided by inlaid paneled reserves over stop-fluted columns with feather carved capitals and ring-turned bases centering four paneled doors opening to fitted shelves compartments, above a reeded platform base, on water-leaf carved urn supports with brass animal paw feet, appears to retain original brass pulls 50” height, 76 7/8” Width, 25 5/8” depth. $18,000-22,000.”.
Shown below: A “French sideboard”, New York City, 1813, possibly made by William Turner, New York City (active 1798-1826). Mahogany, and mahogany veneers with unrecorded secondary woods. Photo, courtesy of Christie’s. This sideboard has a partial label that reads “AK [ER]/No. 50 Beekman Street/New York/All orders Thankfully attended to/May 1813″. William Turner was listed at this Beekman Street address in the 1813 New York City Directory.
Shown above: New York Federal “French” style mahogany sideboard, circa 1815. “The Deshon-Allyn House”, built 1840, page 58 “Classical Taste in America; The Federal Style & Beyond”, Wendell Garrett, Universe Publishing 1995.
Shown above: “Pedestal End Sideboard”, Duncan Phyfe, (with alterations~the piece was originally fitted with a marble top), “Museum of the City of New York”, Gift of Mrs. J. Betram Howell. “Cellaret”, New York, “Museum of the City of New York”, on long-term loan from Glorianna H. Gibbon.
Shown above: Sideboard with pedestal ends from unknown New York cabinetmaker 1815-1820. From “Honore Lannuier~Cabinetmaker From Paris, The Life and Work of a French Ebeniste in Federal New York“, Peter M. Kenny, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art”, New York. Figure 42, page 84. Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1998.
Shown above: “Small sideboard, made about 1812 and attributable to a major New York shop such as that of Phyfe or Charles-Honore Lannuier”. Plate 18. Ex-Collection of the late Ronald S. Kane, New York. From: “19th Century American Furniture and Decorative Arts” Exhibition at “The Metropolitan Museum of Art”, April 16th-September 7th, 1970.
Shown above: “Sideboard by Phyfe, 1815-1820″ From:”The Girl Scout Loan Exhibition of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Furniture & Glass“, Number 786, American Art Galleries, New York City, 25th September to 9th October, 1929, Published 1970. Loaned by Mr. and Mrs. Allan B.A. Bradley.
Two additional New York “French” Federal sideboards, one of which the author has personally examined, are in the permanent collection of “Classical American Homes Trust”, Richard H. Jenrette.
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Our clients’ utmost satisfaction is our number one goal. We endeavor to provide them with a great selection of antiques of superior form and condition. To that same end, we proudly warrant the authenticity and condition of everything that is owned and placed in stock by Chicora Antiques, Inc. and provide this guarantee of authenticity in writing, as described in our descriptions and comprehensive invoices. We take great pride in offering this assurance of guarantee to collectors of fine antiques and decorative arts, however, we do not issue cash refunds under any circumstances, except those pertaining to misrepresentation, in which case, a resolution equivalent to the purchase price is conditionally issued for objects that Chicora Antiques, Inc. has owned and sold. Resolutions are not subject to negotiation, and is issued only as shop credit for future purchases for items owned by Chicora Antiques, Inc., less the cost of shipping and insurance, provided it is returned to us in the same condition. Our stock is carefully reviewed for quality and condition, conserved as needed by qualified artisans, then fully documented and described in our shop texts.
We are delighted to allow any item in our inventory to be shipped, or taken, on approval, for parties who are seriously interested. We do require that any object taken, or shipped on approval be paid for in full, including shipping charges, and tax of the sale, when applicable, before it is removed from our stock. Sales made out of state are tax-exempt. This generous approval option is subject to the same terms, guarantee, and condition of the sale, as is composed in our detailed invoices, which clearly states that we do not issue cash refunds, under any circumstances, other than those pertaining to misrepresentation of age, origin, provenance, or condition. If that remote event were to occur, an immediate reimbursement will be presented to the buyer as a credit towards future purchases, or exchanges, from our stock, less the cost of shipping and insurance, provided it is returned to us in the same condition.
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