|Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854) or D. Phyfe & Sons (active 1837-1840)|
New York, 1835-1840
The undulating veneered crest rail terminating in a scroll with a characteristic rimmed disk boss above an upholstered back and seat with a scrolled arm at one end with a matching rimmed disk boss in the volute. The highly figured seat rail raised on flat rectangular legs terminating in suppressed demi-lune feet with recessed casters.
Condition: Excellent: Minor abrasions to veneer restored, re-finished with shellac in the manner of the period. Modern upholstery.
|Location of Origin: North America|
|Medium/Materials: mahogany, modern upholstery|
|Dimensions: H: 34" L: 74" D: 24"|
|Primary Classification: Folk Art and Americana : Decorative Arts and Furniture|
|Secondary Classification: Decorative Arts and Furniture : Furniture|
|The attribution to Duncan Phyfe is based on very closely related couches documented to Phyfe and published in Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency and in Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York. One couch, was made by D. Phyfe & Sons for Phyfe's daughter, Eliza, and her husband William Vail, Jr. This is almost identical to the present example. A second example, made by D. Phyfe and Son, c. 1841 for Governor John Laurence Manning of Millford Plantation, South Carolina, is also closely related with identical arm, legs, feet and seat rail. A third example, a pair of couches in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is attributed to Phyfe on the basis of family tradition and close relationship the two aforementioned pieces, all bearing the same signature rimmed convex disk bosses; a device recognized as a Phyfe design. |
The scrolled-end form, derived from ancient Greek and Roman day beds with "fulcrum ends," was adopted by furniture designers of the early 19th century and used on beds, sofas and couches. Jacques-Louis David's 1800 portrait of Madam Récamier posing on a Grecian couch, among other such paintings by David, connected the Grecian style to the revolutionary spirit of Republicanism and received wide exposure. American cabinetmakers would have known the form through multiple publications showing multiple iterations such as Pierre de la Mésangère's 1805 Lit romain (pl. 171), Lit étrusque (pl. 178), and 1829 Restauration-style Canepé (pl. 656). English designs such as Thomas Sheraton's 1803 Grecian Squab (pl. 50), and George Smith's 1808 French Bed for Recess and Chaise Longue (pls. 63, 64, 65, 66), would also have been very influential.
The unadorned style of this couch, now referred to as Grecian Plain Style, is closely related to the French Restauration style of Louis XVIII and Charles X and was popular in the United States throughout the 1830's. Phyfe's firm was the uncontested master of this style in America.
 Nancy McClelland, Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency (New York: Walter R. Scott, Inc., 1939), 272-274, and Peter M. Kenny and Michael K. Brown, Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), 139, 143.
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