INTRODUCTION: An extremely rare and important, possibly unique, American Neo-Classical Era Center or Library Table from the city of Boston, circa 1825-1830. This handsome table of single pedestal form, was apparently drawn from the designs of the celebrated English designer, Thomas Hope, who is given credit for his inception of the new archeological designs acquired from Greco-Roman ideals of the period. Hope believed that the pursuit of drawing to be fundamental in the quest for excellence in any artistic medium. One of his design drawings, which is shown in his most widely distributed design book “Household Furniture and Interior Decoration” published in 1807, shows an “Etruscan” table, which serves as a influential composition treatment, albeit, interpretive, as the source for the design of the present table offered here. A photograph of his table design is included as a scan for reference. The table has been on loan until now to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York, from a private collector in the South who has chosen to make it available for purchase for the first time publicly since his acquisition. Several current and noteworthy scholars, including Professor Thomas Gordon Smith of the University of Notre Dame, have examined the table and strongly believe it is most likely the work of the Boston cabinetmaker Timothy Hunt, although numerous workshops in the city of Boston were capable of creating such a table, including Isaac Vose & Son (active 1819-1825). Lemuel Churchill (active about 1805-1830), Emmons and Archibald (active 1813-1825). It is very noteworthy that Hunt was most identified and well-known for his frequent and liberal incorporation of the “Anthemion” motif in his furniture designs which appears prominently in the present tables’ pedestal base. Anthemion is a Greek word for flower, resembling a honeysuckle, and was used to describe an ornament on a piece of furniture or architecture, and was much used in the Greek Revival Era in American 1800-1840.
Although not labeled or stenciled, this striking and incomparable table bears remarkable similarities in character and execution of detail that link it to the best of Boston workshops that were influenced by European designers in the first three quarters of the nineteenth century, most notably, Thomas Hope, German Architects, such as the premier artisan Charles F. Reichardt, and the French design partnership of Percier and Fontaine, who were commissioned by Josephine Bonaparte to make furniture for the French home of Emperor Napoleon I in 1799. While it is improper to attribute any piece of artwork to a specific artisan without the presence of impenetrable evidence in the form of label, receipt, or signature of some sort, this table was indubitably made by a highly sophisticated cabinetmaker in Boston who was well-acquainted with the leading designs of late phase of the Classical Greek Revival Era in America from 1800-1840. The author is acutely aware of similar case pieces, sofas, and tables, of this high-style Grecian form, but is ignorant of any such pieces that amalgamate and absorb such into a highly evolved pedestal library or center table so triumphantly.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION: The table retains all elements of its originality and remarkably includes its original wooden casters. The table has been “French” polished with non-synthetic shellac surface with an exceptional sheen and a dazzling lustrous color. The squared top is free of patches or abrasions that are common to pieces designated for such heavy and utilitarian use. The “coved” aproned top rests upon the tapered and squared pedestal that is enriched with a boldly detailed carved three-dimensional Anthemia decoration. The pedestal base is flanked by four extruding “paw” feet which are capped with “wings” which again emphasizes the cabinetmaker familiarity with Greco-Roman Details as the paw motif was frequently used in American Furniture and enjoyed popularity in most all urban centers. The “wings” on the feet is synonymous of the Greek God of Victory “Nike”. Unique in form, the table has no specified use, but was mostly likely employed for use as a center, library, or card table.
EXISTING CONDITION: There are no patches to the dazzling veneers. The surface is not original, but has been treated with additional applications of a non-synthetic shellac finish appropriate to the conventions used during the tables’ production period 1825-1830.
DIMENSIONS: Width 48”, Depth 48”, Height 29”.
HISTORY: The current owner purchased the table privately from a collector in Massachusetts who had purchased it from Schreve, Crump & Lowe decades earlier.
All documents pertinent to the table from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute as well as from the owner of the table will be available to the presumed purchaser.
“Neo-Classicism in American”, by Stuart Feld and Wendell Garrett,
Library of Congress, 1991
“Boston in the Age of Neo-Classicism”, Stuart Feld and Page Talbott,
Ph.D, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.
“Classical Savannah Fine and Decorative Arts 1800-1840”, Page
Talbott, Ph. D., The Telfair Museum”, 1995.
“Classical Taste in America 1800-1840”, The Baltimore Museum of
Art, 1993, by Wendy Cooper.
“Nineteenth Century America, Furniture and Decorative Arts”, Berry
Tracy, The Metropolitan Museum , 1970.
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