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A Rare Carved Mahogany Sécretaire à Abattant, Philadelphia, c.1815-30

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This abattant is related to a small grouping of about 15 known Philadelphia casepieces, a form with distinct European antecedents and produced for a short time in major American urban areas. Among this group, our abattant, with its defined Parthenon-type upper pediment, has a distinctive architectural aspect that is quite unique to the form.

In the pediment itself, the triangle roof is embellished with its original mount, depicting a woman watering flowers. Below is a functional drawer, something not seen in other examples, which makes this abattant with the gadrooning a fairly well-developed atribute. The upper case also has two convex drawers and other examples either have one long drawer or none. Flanked by two turned mahogany columns with brass capitols, which some examples lack, the drop lid is composed of two cross-banded inset panels, as are its lower doors. In line with the freestanding columns are pilasters below with highly figured mahogany insets and mounts in the centers. The mounts on the pilasters depict a musician playing possibly a lute (see detail). Further, floral carved embellishments above and below each pilaster complete the composition and is seen in most other abattants in this group. The entire chest rests upon carved paw front feet with turned rear feet.

As these abattants were designed to be left in a closed position when not in use, they often are quite functional and austere internally. Typical of the form, the interior of this abattant contains bird's eye maple drawerfronts and cubbyholes in its uppercase and drawers with shelving in the lower case. The large mount on the upper case and mounts on the lower pilasters are all original, as are the pulls. The columns also retain their original brass capitols, which not all abattants have. This secretary appears quite formidable and solid. In fact, it is very heavy. As these abattants are quite rare, and all beautifully developed, this example would be a major cornerstone to any neoclassical collection of fine American furniture. This grouping of abattants truly fall in the masterpiece category.

Height: 76 1/2 in.  Width: 38 in.  Depth: 23 in.
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