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American Federal Inlaid Mahogany Antique Secretary Writing Desk, circa 1790-1810



A rare and exceptional “Ladies Writing Desk“, this form and use of three inlaid columns in the upper doors relates to the tambour door examples by John and Thomas Seymour held in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as well as a similar documented example in Winterthur Museum, Delaware. Another quite similar example is held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, this resting over spade feet with the same swollen profile as the present example. Our desk was likely completed by a craftsman inspired by the Seymour's desks, though without the use of additional inlays and tambour front found on most of the Seymour attributed desks. Exquisitely inlaid columns divide out the facade of the upper, these nearly pictorial with a sash that wraps around the column diagonally. The doors open to reveal six pigeon-hole letter slots with scalloped valances below four and over three drawers. Note the quality of the craftsmanship with alternating light, medium and dark hues between the drawer facades, valances and what would appear to be rosewood veneered blades and divides. This upper section is built as a solitary unit and can be removed easily from the top, allowing the desk to be safely moved without suffering damage. It is perhaps this attention to detail that has allowed it to remain in such excellent overall original condition. In the lower section, a single smaller drawer is flanked by lopers, withdrawn to allow the writing surface to flip out and rest firmly. A second larger drawer is situated below this, both with replaced stamped brass pulls. The mahogany used in the drawer fronts is a very pleasing grain pattern with horizontal rolling waves, the rectangle framed in light-and-dark double stringer inlays and surrounded by cockbead molding. A warm silky patina throughout allows the aged mahogany to glow through the burnished shellac and years of surface wax. It is an exceptional investment grade piece in very Fine original condition throughout. Similar Examples: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, acc. no. B.65.12: a Federal Tambour Door Inlaid Writing Desk over spade feet Christies, New York, June 17 1997, lot 417, “A Federal Inlaid Mahogany Secretary Desk, attributed to John and Thomas Seymour“, with similar spade feet profile and non-similar tambour doors and formal inlays Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art (RISD), Rhode Island, acc. no. 71.075, “A Ladies Writing Desk attr. to John and Thomas Seymour“ Winterthur Museum, Delaware, acc. no. 57.802 Measurements: 43 3/4“ H x 38 7/8“ W x 20 1/4“ D; 29 1/2“ H to writing surface; writing surface is 38 7/8“ W x 18“ D when opened Condition report: Replaced stamped brass pulls. Strip on lower edge of right door possibly a repaired splice; replaced green baize writing surface; minor patching/veneer and stringer replacements; spots of column veneer replaced including a patch to the bottom of the column in the center of the left door. Minor age related shrinkage cracks in the sides of the case.


  • Dimensions
    Height: 43.75 in. (111.13 cm)Width: 38.88 in. (98.76 cm)Depth: 20.25 in. (51.44 cm)
  • Style
    Federal (Of the Period)
  • Materials and Techniques
  • Place of Origin
  • Period
  • Date of Manufacture
    circa 1790-1810
  • Condition
    Repaired: Strip on lower edge of right door possibly a repaired splice. Replacements made: Replaced stamped brass pulls. Replaced green baize writing surface; minor patching/veneer and stringer replacements; spots of column veneer replaced including a patch to the bottom of the column in the center of the left door. Additions or alterations made to the original. Wear consistent with age and use. Minor losses. See condition notes in description text.
  • Seller Location
    Shippensburg, PA
  • Reference Number
    Seller: 906IUT05P | Silla, ltd.1stDibs: LU1059020422022

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    Rates vary by destination and complexity. We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility.
    Ships From: Shippensburg, PA
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    A return for this item may be initiated within 1 day of delivery.

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About the Seller
4.8 / 5
Located in Shippensburg, PA
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Established in 2009
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Typical response time: 1 hour
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