Artist unknown / Secretary-bookcase / ca. 1829Artist unknown
ca. 1829

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Creator Name: Unknown
Creator Nationality: North American; American
Creator Role: Artist
Creator Name-CRT: Artist unknown
Title: Secretary-bookcase
Title Type: Object name
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1827
Creation End Date: 1831
Creation Date: ca. 1829
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Furniture
Materials and Techniques: Mahogany, pine, poplar
Dimensions: 102 x 55 3/4 x 28 1/8 in. (259.1 x 141.6 x 71.4 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 60.29.1 a,b
Credit Line: Gift of Francis Hartman Markoe, 1960

Neoclassicism was the dominant style in American furniture for the first four decades of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the earlier Neoclassical designs characterized by light, delicate forms and geometric lines, this secretary, or writing desk, is associated with the later Neoclassical style known as Greek Revival, popular between 1825 and 1845. While by definition all Neoclassical furniture draws upon the past through the use of motifs and elements from antiquity such as acanthus leaves, animal-paw feet, and palmettes, late Neoclassical furniture is distinguished by its bold forms and often monumental character. Here the ebonized mahogany, the painted and gilded fretwork in imitation of brass inlay, the naturalistic stenciling of fruits and flowers on the rounded front molding and cornice, the columns with gilded composite capitals, and the massive paw feet below gilded cornucopia brackets, all combine to create one of the greatest expressions of American Greek Revival furniture from about 1830. Aside from its obvious decorative appeal, this piece served a practical function as a writing desk: the front molding pulls out to reveal a writing surface flanked by compartments for ink, and the drawers and shelves above would have provided storage space for papers, letters, and books. While this secretary had previously been attributed to the New York cabinetmakers Joseph Meeks and Sons, recent scholarship has cast doubt upon this attribution.

AMICA ID: MMA_.60.29.1a,b
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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