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Pair of Grecian Plain-Style Mahogany Pier Tables

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Origin United States, New York
Period 19th Century
Materials Mahogany, Marble.
Dimensions
W. 41 in; H. 32.5 in; D. 18 in;
W. 104.14 cm; H. 82.55 cm; D. 45.72 cm;
Condition Excellent. Mirrors replaced, one back board replaced.
Creation Date 1835-1842
Number of Pieces 2-3
Description PAIR OF GRECIAN PLAIN-STYLE MAHOGANY PIER TABLES
Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854) or D. Phyfe & Son
New York, 1835-1841

Each with an oblong white veined marble top with conforming veneered attenuated cavetto frieze with a fine band of mahogany at the base forming a very narrow architrave, supported on columns, square in plan, that flare out at the base and plain pilasters in back flanking a mirror plate on a plinth base that extends from the pilasters to the columns only. The plinth base is raised on shallow bolection-molded rectangular pads. The tables and marbles are marked No. 1 and No. 2 in black paint. The marbles bare modern labels from the North Carolina Department of State.

Condition: Excellent: One table has a replaced back board and both tables have replaced mirror plates. Original marbles, surface re-polished with shellac in the manner of the period.

The attribution to Phyfe is predicated on the relatedness of the elements on the pier tables to numerous pieces of furniture documented to Phyfe in the period 1835-1841 including a pier table, a wardrobe, a secrétaire-à-abattant, a sofa table, a cheval mirror and ladies' writing fire screen, all illustrated in Peter Kenny's Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), 92,-95, 230-232, 236-237, 240-241, 250-252, 256-257. Those elements include the attenuated cavetto frieze with a narrow band at the bottom of the pier table, wardrobe, secrétaire, and cheval glass and the flared (or cavetto) post of the wardrobe, cheval glass, sofa table and writing fire screen.

In this definitive study Kenny notes, "Phyfe's Grecian Plain Style work of the 1830s and 1840s has also been called his architectural furniture because, as one scholar has explained, "architecture and architectural elements dictated" its form. At its best, Phyfe's Grecian Plain style furniture captures the strength, simplicity, and noble repose that characterize the best Greek Revival architecture. Phyfe achieved this effect by using the classical orders, often in abstract form, and a quiet yet radiant palette of warm-toned rosewood and mahogany veneers meticulously selected and precisely applied in an architectural manner." This can be seen in the careful handling of the veneers at the corners of the cavetto frieze that appear to flare out like palm fronds above the pillars.

This set of pier tables is slightly smaller than is typical of the form, which probably indicates that they were bespoke tables, custom ordered for a specific place and use.

Provenance: North Carolina Executive (Governor's) Mansion, Raleigh, NC.
The tables date to the period between 1831 and 1840, after the burning of the North Carolina State House when the Governor's house, a Classical Revival brick structure, served as the meeting place for certain sessions of the General Assembly.

T-P-1509092
Styles / Movements Classical
Book References Peter Kenny & Michael Brown, Duncan Phyfe: Mater Cabinetmaker in New Yor (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011).
Incollect Reference Number 116502
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