Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Secretary and bookcase

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Mahogany, mahogany and satinwood veneers with white and yellow pine, yellow poplar, cedar
106 1/2 x 85 1/2 in. (270.5 x 217.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1967
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 730
This bookcase with a secretary or writing compartment in the top center drawer is based on a design by Thomas Shearer in the 1793 edition of "The Cabinet-Makers' London Book of Prices". The unknown Philadelphia cabinetmaker responsible for the manufacture of this stylish yet highly functional piece of case furniture chose from several decorative options offered in the Shearer design. These include a range of drawers with inlaid elliptical panels over cupboards in the lower section, inlaid circular paterae in the corners of the cupboard doors, and a pediment with flat elliptical hollows, inlaid patera on each end, and a central inlaid fan. Providing options for customizing basic furniture forms to suit the fancies of furniture makers and their patrons was the intent of published patterns like Shearer's. It is rare, however, to find a surviving piece of American furniture that is so clearly reflective of this design process.
Inscription: inscribed in chalk on an inside drawer: Maskell Ewing, Jr.
James Hunter; his son-in-law, Maskell Ewing Jr., Philadelphia; descended in the Ewing-Oakley families; Mr. and Mrs. Thornton Oakley; Mrs. Lansdale Podbereski, until 1967; with Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 1967
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