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A Masterpiece Campaign Secretary of Exotic Amboyna and Ivory Inlay, probably India, c.1820-40, possibly Vizagapatum

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Announcement!  This item will be available at auction from Neal Auction Company on January 26th, 2019.  Preview exhibition is currently underway.  Click here to see our listings at

This secretary is a rare piece of campaign furniture, as campaign secretaries are a rarity.  We imagine this was probably the general's piece, and he certainly wasn't anywhere near the battlefield. The aboyna wood is absolutely fabulous, and is a very thick veneer, which has aged beautifully over time, developing an agreeable mellow tone and no real shrinkage cracks.   It all comes apart.  The pediment is detachable, with its original finial and embellishments.   The upper case reveals a typical Hepplewhite construction form with prospect door and various sized file and drawer elements.  The drawers retain their original delicate ivory pulls and the prospect drawer reveals a valance giving the entire interior a special grace.  The lower cases are quite interesting, as the top board slides forward, revealing a writing tablet flanked by sliding drawers above additional compartments (see three images of the various configurations of this).   

What is of interest to us is that, while much campaign furniture is of varying quality, this clearly is one of the best of the type we have ever seen, and better than anything illustrated in the seminal work on Campaign furniture - British Campaign Furniture: Elegance under Canvas, 1740-1914, Nicholas A. Brawer.   The closest piece we come to this is a dressing bureau with writing tablet, attached hereto.  

The condition of this piece is absolutely superlative and probably earlier than later, given the Hepplewhite style.  It is the best of the best; indeed a masterpiece.

The reason we feel this is probably Indian, and not China trade, is the magnificent ivory ebony inlays on the doorfronts.  Their executed to absolute precision, and very reminiscent of the work coming out of Vizagapatum.

Height: 63 in. Width: 41 1/2 in. Depth: 23 in.
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