Federal Figured Mahogany Sideboard
Typical of the ornament of the French emigré cabinetmaker Charles-Honoré Lannuier are the leaf-carved legs and mirror supports on this unusual dressing table. It combines a variety of decorative styles: while the round, veneered columns of the bureau base evoke the French Empire style, the round cap feet, ornate ormolu pulls, caps, and bases are based on English Regency prototypes, and the overall form of the dressing table relates to earlier Federal furniture. In addition to the columns and imported brasses, the use of panels of flame-grained mahogany, highlighted by contrasting borders of cross-cut veneers, sets this piece firmly in the 19th century when decorative veneers of rich woods were in vogue in America and Europe.
A similar documented case piece by Lannuier, with spectacular veneers and in the Empire style, is a mahogany wardrobe, signed on the base of a bust in the center of the pediment, “H. Lannuier/New York.”1Owned by The New-York Historical Society, this wardrobe is illustrated in Tracy and Gerdts, no. 1; and is further discussed in “Collector’s Notes,” Antiques 85, no. 4 (April 1964), 442. A chest of drawers made by Lannuier in the same style, has an overhanging top drawer, carved paw feet, and lion’s-head brasses, but is similar to the Collection’s dressing table in its use of dazzling figured surfaces, veneered round columns, and chaste but elegant ormolu mounts.2“Collector’s Notes,” Antiques 76, no. 2 (August 1959), 145.
The similarity of documented furniture made by Lannuier and Duncan Phyfe (see Acc. No. 75.5) demonstrates that both native and immigrant craftsmen willingly adapted to what was a New York taste in furniture.3Fairbanks and Bates, 272. While Phyfe worked in New York City from about 1790 to 1847, Lannuier, by comparison, is listed in city directories for only fifteen years, from 1804/5 through 1819/20, but during this time, his productivity was tremendous, with over fifty documented pieces known today.4Richard Dana Reese, “Phyfe and Lannuier: New York Cabinetmakers,” in M. J. Madigan, ed., Early American Furniture from Settlement to City (New York: Billboard Publications, 1983), 139.
Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.