Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

ca. 1770-1790
United States: Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
North American
wood; mahogany; southern yellow pine; yellow-poplar; Atlantic white cedar; eastern white pine
Overall: 33 3/8 in x 42 1/8 in x 23 1/8 in; 84.7725 cm x 106.9975 cm x 58.7375 cm
Thomas C. Percival (1801-1876) of Portland, Oregon; by descent to Catherine H. Percival (d. 1937); to a Portland collector from Percival's estate; to Israel Sack, Inc., New York; to H. R. Dietrich, Jr., of Philadelphia; to Israel Sack, Inc., New York; to another Philadelphia collector; to Israel Sack, Inc.; to the Fine Arts Committee through purchase
Credit Line
Funds donated in memory of Mr. Clement E. Conger and Mrs. Lianne H. Conger
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number

Related Objects

Chippendale Mahogany Block-Front Bureau Table

Chippendale Mahogany Block-Front Bureau Table

ca. 1750-1770
wood; mahogany; eastern white pine
Chippendale Mahogany Block-Front Bureau Table

Chippendale Mahogany Block-Front Bureau Table

Townsend-Goddard School
ca. 1760-1790
wood; mahogany; chestnut; eastern red cedar; eastern white pine; yellow-poplar; poplar; aspen (possible)

Object Essay

The bureau table was an alternative form of dressing table used in bedchambers for dressing and writing. Developed in England during the 1720s, bureau tables appeared in Boston by the 1730s and were a popular form in Massachusetts (see Acc. No. 67.24) and Rhode Island (see Acc. No. 78.67). No references to this form in Philadelphia are known before about 1765. In 1767, the cabinetmaker Gerrard Hopkins, who had been trained in Philadelphia, advertised in The Maryland Gazette that he made “Tables of various sorts such as Bureaus, Card, Chamber, Parlor, and Tea Tables.” Bureau tables appear frequently in Philadelphia inventories and cabinetmakers’ accounts during the last three decades of the 18th century, when the form enjoyed its greatest popularity there.1Goyne 1967, 24–26.

The basic Philadelphia bureau table was described in the 1772 price list as a “Bureau Table with prospect dore and Squair Corners,” which in mahogany cost £7.1. As with other furniture, this basic form could be embellished with a number of extras. The “Qarter Calloms” on this example added £1 to the price, and a few are known with ball and claw feet that usually cost an additional 10s.2Weil, 189. Philadelphia bureau tables with ball and class feet are illustrated in Hornor 1935, pl. 196, and Sotheby’s, New York, Sale 5883, June 21, 1989, Lot 337. The straight bracket feet on this bureau table are unusual in Philadelphia furniture, on which the ogee or “swell’d” bracket foot was common. These feet may have been inspired by a design for a “Buroe Table” in the 1754 edition of Thomas Chippendale’s Director, which also shows the broad proportions, plain prospect door, and relative lack of carving of this example. Broad proportions and restrained ornament are found on other Philadelphia bureau tables. A similar example with ogee bracket feet and corner columns flanking the prospect door was made for Sarah Shippen Burd (1731–1784).3Hornor 1935, pl. 197.

David L. Barquist

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.