Research: Luce Center for American Art

Desk
Accession #1993.156
Maker R. J. Horner
TitleDesk
Date1890-1895
MediumVarious woods, various metals, mother-of-pearl inlay, brass hardware
Dimensions42 3/4 x 32 x 19 3/4 in. (108.6 x 81.25 x 50.15 cm)
MarksEmbossed plate screwed into top center of back of desk: "FROM / R. J. HORNER & CO. / FURNITURE MAKERS, / 61, 63 & 65 West 23rd St., N.Y." Impressed above embossed plate: "68" or "89"
Credit LineAlfred T. and Caroline S. Zoebisch Fund
LocationAmerican Identities: Centennial Era
DescriptionWooden desk with mother-of-pearl inlay and metal hardware. Slant top desk with modified block front frame and central kneehole raised on cabriole legs with casters. One wide rectangular drawer with elaborate metal pulls flanked by carved scrolled acanthus leaves below sloped front, with carved scrolled shell motif in center. Two smaller similarly carved shells at proper right and left corners of kneehole. One small rectangular drawer with elaborate metal drawer pulls on each side of kneehole. Sloped front with inlaid decoration in diamond-shaped floral pattern in center with rectangular border of floral and leaf motifs. Top corners of border inlaid with grotesque bearded masks, bottom corners inlaid with single daisy-like flower. Decorative metal escutcheon at top center of sloped front. Interior with large central arcaded compartment, flanked by single narrow vertical drawer with centered round drawer pull, followed by pair of arcaded pigeonholes above two stacked rectangular drawers with centered round drawer pulls. Top of desk with brass gallery, scrolled at each end, with short balusters. Cabriole legs carved with single large acanthus leaf on stippled ground at corner blocks, tapering to ball-and-claw feet. Spiral molding along bottom of frame on front and outer sides. Retractable fall-front supports at either side of long rectangular top drawer. CONDITION: Good. Later revarnishing.

Curatorial Remarks: Although instances of the conscious re-creation of the past called the Colonial Revival are known from the first half of the nineteenth century, it was the Centennial celebration of the country in 1876 that focused attention on the colonial past. This side chair by Ernest F. Hagen is a rather faithful reproduction of a famous design by Duncan Phyfe (1768–1854), the most famous cabinetmaker in New York in the early nineteenth century. Hagen emigrated from Hamburg, Germany, to New York in 1844 and worked for a number of cabinetmakers before opening his own business that specialized in restoring antique furniture and imitating earlier Neoclassical designs. The desk directly quotes a colonial form—an eighteenth-century Chippendale slant-top desk—but embellishes it with an elaborate Renaissance-style inlaid design.