250: Rare 1816 Federal Mahogany Inlaid Tambour Desk
Rare Federal 19th Century Inlaid Mahogany Tambour Writing Desk and Bookcase. The desk is possibly Connecticut River Valley, Circa 1816. In three parts, the molded cornice with inlaid dentiling above a diamond inlaid frieze, the bookcase section with two paneled doors with quarter-fan inlays opening to reveal an eight-compartment interior above the center case with tambour doors centering a n oval veneered prospect door and flanked by inlaid and reeded applied pilasters, the tambour doors opening to reveal two sets of three drawers above valanced compartments, the prospect door opening to reveal a single valanced compartment with drawer below; the lower section with a string inlaid fold-out writing surface above similarly inlaid drawers flanked by stiles with panel inlays over a skirt, also with inlaid dentiling above legs with inlaid bellflowers, line inlay and inlaid cuffs. The underside of the top section is inscribed Wood" in chalk." The elaborate handmade inlay and crotch veneers, combine with the imposing height of the upper sections, are among the desirable and notable features of this desk and bookcase. Featuring Featuring patterned inlay in a variety of geometric designs that combine successfully with the graceful proportions and rectilinear elements of the case, this bookcase is a tour de force of the Federal aesthetic featured in cabinetmaking of the early years of the nineteenth century. A virtually identical tambour desk and bookcase with matching dimensions and identical inlay patterns, signed by Timothy Douglas and attributed to Connecticut is featured in Christie's "Highly Important American Furniture from the Collection of Dr. C. Ray. Franklin", October 13, 1984, lot 443. It is unclear without further scholarship whether Timothy Douglas was the cabinetmaker or owner of the desk and bookcase. The mahogany veneers indicate that this desk and bookcase were made in an urban center, an assumption that is supported by the sophistication of the veneers and construction of the three case sections. The various geometric patterns of the inlay are similar to those found on Federal furniture made in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It is, however, the presence of cherry in the drawer supports and the backing of the cabinet doors that may determine that this piece was probably made in Connecticut. Desk and bookcases, also called secretaries, were among the largest and most imposing cabinet pieces and were often status symbols for their wealthy owners. Featuring numerous drawers, shelves and cubbyholes, they held the business accounts and correspondence of colonial merchants. A desk and bookcase with elaborate inlay, such as this one, would have been extremely expensive at the time it was commissioned. Measures 81 ¾" high, 42 ¾" wide and 20 ½" deep.