PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF PATRICIA M. SAX
The inclusion of mummy heads, bearded and mustachioed, with Turkish or Middle Eastern headdresses, on this sideboard and several other American sideboards and side tables of this period reflects an international "Egyptomania," and specifically recall designs included in Percier and Fontaine's Recueil des Decorations Interieures (1801 and 1812), Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet-Maker's and General Artist's Encyclopaedia (1804-08), George Smith's A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1806-08), and Thomas Hope's Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807). In fact, as of 1817, The New York Book of Prices of Manufacturing Cabinet and Chair Work referred to figural supports as "tapered therms [sic] with mummy heads and feet" (p. 72).
In addition to its references to Egypt, and to the inclusion of such obvious Neo-Classical elements as the eight anthemion-carved panels that punctuate the frieze, this sideboard features four paneled doors with Gothic arches, and two canted panels with lancets surmounting quatrefoils, thereby placing it in a genre of furniture that has been characterized as an eclectic mix of Neo-Classical with "Gothic, Egyptian, Turkish, Moorish, and other elements" (see Ronald J. Hurst and Jonathan Prown, Southern Furniture 1680-1830, the Colonial Williamsburg Collection [Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Williamsburg, 1997], p. 526) that was often seen in Baltimore decorative arts from around 1815 into the 1830s (see Alexandra Alevizatos Kirtley, "A New Suspect: Baltimore Cabinetmaker Edward Priestley." American Furniture 2000. [Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Chipstone Foundation, 2000], p. 121).
For many years, related chests of drawers, sideboards, side tables, and desks with close stylistic and formal similarities to the present piece were routinely assigned to the shop of Joseph B. Barry of Philadelphia on the basis of his offer for sale in the March 30, 1815, Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser of "3 pair Elliptic Bureaus, columns and Egyptian figures" (see Donald L. Fennimore and Robert T. Trump, "Joseph B. Barry, Philadelphia cabinetmaker," The Magazine Antiques, CXXXV [May 1989], p. 1216). In recent years, however, it has, however, become clear that this type of work was also popular in Baltimore, and a number of comparable sideboards and desks have been variously assigned to the shops of Baltimore's finest cabinetmakers, including John Needles (fl. 1810-52), William Camp (1773-1822), and, most recently, Edward Priestley (1778-1834). All three Baltimore cabinetmakers are known to have produced furniture designed in this "Grecian-Gothic" style. In fact, in several newspaper advertisements that ran locally (including the Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Advertiser on April 21, 1825, and May 16, 1826), Needles specifically referenced "Grecian, Gothic and French" offerings. Priestley, in particular, was well known for his frequent use of figural legs (see, for example, Kirtley, pp. 100 fig. 1, 122 fig. 23 (HirschI & Adler Galleries, FAPG 18599D), 123 figs. 24 and 25, 124 fig . 27, and 125 fig. 29).
In terms of its form, the present piece is closely related to a group of sideboards produced in Baltimore both with and without mummy heads, all featuring doors with Gothic panels and recessed cupboards. The others in this group include a labeled John Needles sideboard with Corinithian composite capitals (see Gregory R. Weidman, Jennifer F. Goldsborough, et al. , Classical Maryland 1815-1845: Fine and Decorative Artsfrom the Golden Age, exhib. cat. [Maryland Historical Society and The Museum & Library of Maryland History, Baltimore, 1993], p. 118 fig. 143 illus. in color), a second sideboard (attributed to Needles) with Corinthian capitals but with the addition of gilt-brass paw feet, now in the Maryland Historical Society (see Gregory R. Weidman, Furniture in Maryland 1740-1940 [Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, 1984], p. 159 fig. 120 illus), a figural sideboard in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art (see William Voss Elder, III, and Jayne E. Stokes, American Furniture 1680-1880 From the Collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art [Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, 1987], pp. 154-55 no. 117 illus.), a second figural sideboard (Weidman, Goldsborough, el al., p. 133 fig. 163 illus.) in a private collection, and a third figural sideboard, formerly with David Stockwell (see catalogue, sale 6000, Sotheby' s, New York, April 29-30, 1988, no. 3183 illus. in color), with gilt-bronze drawer pulls and paw feet. What sets the present sideboard apart from the other related pieces is its slightly smaller scale and its unusual and very decorative gilt-brass acanthus feet.
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