Rare and Important American Classical Mahogany, Rosewood, Ebony and Brass-Inlaid Cylinder Secretary Bookcase
Sold for $35,000
second quarter 19th century, Philadelphia, the upper case with a scrolled and pierce-carved center crest, flanked by arched end crests with scroll- and swirl-carved fronts, the frieze above the glazed doors inset with an ebony panel and die-cut brass inlay, similar ebony and brass-inlaid pilasters flanking the doors, the top of the case designed as a secret compartment with a hinged lid opening to a void interior, the base with a book-matched pie-segmented cylinder roll opening to a fitted interior with a pull-out deck and its original adjustable parcel-gilt and tooled leather writing blotter, supported by large carved and scrolled brackets set on a shaped platform base with a central half-round section banded in rosewood and inlaid with brass stringing, having a mirrored back and raised on carved paw feet.
h. 79", w. 44", d. 22"
Notes: The present cylinder secretary shares characteristics of pieces from at least two noted Philadelphia cabinetmakers from the first half of the 19th century, the Irish immigrant Joseph M. Barry and the French-born cabinetmaker Anthony Quervelle. The die-cut brass "boulle" inlay on the ebony pilasters flanking the upper doors on the present piece can be found on a
Philadelphia fall-front secretary with bookcase wings in the collection of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Accession Number: 1925-76-1.
And a secretaire a' abattant with the apparent same brass inlay is attributed to the Philadelphia cabinet shop of Joseph Barry and is illustrated in Boor, Philadelphia Empire Furniture, page 448. Barry was active in Philadelphia from 1794 until 1838, both as an independent cabinetmaker and in various partnerships.
A number of the carved elements on this piece share similarities to elements in sketches in Anthony Quervelle's sketch book and on pieces labeled or attributed to Quervelle including anthemion petals in Sketch 18 in Boor's book. The small detailed rosettes and the small central crest carving are consistent with known Quervelle features that have been referred to as "micro-carving".
Quervelle was active in Philadelphia from the early 1820s to 1845.
Reference: Boor, Philadelphia Empire Furniture, University Press of New England, 2006, pp. 71, 108 and 448.
**In overall very good condition. Minor dings from age and use. The leather bottom has old ink stains, some shrinkage and a small loss to the lower right corner. The cylinder is lacking its lock. The secretary comes apart in three sections. The frieze and cornice lift off the bookcase. The bookcase section slides forward on two dovetailed splines. Retains its original rich, dark finish.