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An American Classical Mahogany Serving or Mixing Table, Philadelphia, circa 1830-1835,
with vigorous current associations to the workshop of Anthony Quervelle
INTRODUCTION: A refreshingly uncommon, innovative, and possibly unprecedented American Classical mahogany serving table from the city of Philadelphia, circa 1830-1835, with exceptionally strong connections with the workshop of Anthony Gabriel Quervelle (1789-1856). The present table has been on loan until now to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York, from a private collector in the South who has chosen to make it available for purchase for the first time publicly. Several current and noteworthy scholars, including Professor Thomas Gordon Smith of the University of Notre Dame, have examined the table and strongly believe it is undoubtedly a product of the Anthony Quervelle cabinetshop. Although not labeled or stenciled, it bears remarkable similarities in character and execution of detail that link it to the best of Philadelphia workshops that were influenced by European design in the first two quarters of the nineteenth century, most notably, French Restauration designs and Germanic Biedermeier expressions. While it is improper to attribute any piece of artwork to a specific artisan without the presence of impenetrable evidence in the form of label, receipt, or signature of some sort, this table was indubitably made by a highly sophisticated cabinetmaker in Philadelphia who was well-acquainted with the leading designs of late phase of the Classical Greek Revival Era in America from 1800-1840.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION: The table retains its original marble top, which rests upon the case that contains a single “hidden” sliding drawer with cove moldings. Unique in form, it has no specified use. The table could have been employed for use as a sideboard or adopted as a serving table. It is feasible to assume that it was utilized as a “mixing” table, however, the author is unaware of any such table that contains two doors. Although uncommon, mixing tables from Philadelphia and Baltimore are typically narrow marble topped pedestal tables that have a single door on the lower case. The innovative semi-circular and flamboyant “starburst” or raised “fan” composition on this table is a feature that dominated many of the select Quervelle case pieces, most notably employed in sideboards, secretaries, and work tables, but there is liberal evidence that this pattern was employed by other craftsmen in the area. A sideboard or possibly a lower half of a secretary with slightly similar, but not as highly evolved decoration exists on a stenciled work by Charles and John White of Philadelphia, 1828-1835, and shown in Philadelphia Empire Furniture, J. Boor 2006, figure #273. The tables’ doors bear keyholes made of ebony and open to reveal a spacious cabinet with shelves. The case sides highlight displays of harmonious scrolls resembling lyres, each of which are tastefully punctuated with circular applied rosettes and anchored with lozenges.
EXISTING CONDITION: Exceptional. As has been previously stated, the marble top is original and unbroken. The proper left brass keyhole has been replaced. There are no patches to the dazzling veneers. The surface is not original, but has been treated with additional applications of a non-synthetic shellac finish appropriate to the conventions used during the tables’ production period.
DIMENSIONS: Width 42”, Depth 16”.
HISTORY: The current owner purchased the table privately from a collector in Massachusetts who had purchased it from Schreve, Crump & Lowe decades earlier.
THE QUERVELE WORKSHOP: According to the inscription on his tombstone in Old Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Churchyard in Philadelphia, Anthony Gabriel Quervelle was born in Paris in 1789. He emigrated to America around 1817. It is likely that he, like the renowned New York City cabinetmaker, Charles-Honore Lannuier (active 1802-1819), was a member of a family of cabinetmakers, for there is documentation that a Jean-Claude Quervelle (1731-1778) worked at Versailles as “ebeniste du garde-meuble de la Couronne” who may well have been a relative. It is conjectured that Quervelle, like, Lannuier, and other young Frenchman may have left France hastily, disenchanted after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Quervelle himself was clearly an admirer of Napoleon as he was known to have had several portraits of him. He was married to another Parisian, Louise Genevieve Monet, in Philadelphia in 1817, was listed as a cabinetmaker there around 1820, and naturalized an American citizen in 1823. In 1825 he opened a cabinet shop named “United States Fashionable Cabinet Ware House” or “Cabinet and Sofa Manufactory” at 126 South Second Street, where he worked and resided until 1849.
Anthony Quervelle was unquestionably one of the most influential cabinetmakers in Philadelphia Classical Era and received numerous awards for his works, including one “Honorable Mention” from The Franklin Institute’s exhibition of 1825 for two pier tables and in 1826, won a “Silver Medal” for “the best cabinet book case and secretary” from the same institution. Quervelles’ popularity was confirmed when President Andrew Jackson commissioned him to design tables for The White Houses’ East Room in 1829. Two of these tables remain in The White House. The most distinctive signatures of his work include decorative “gadrooning” on moldings, vase and urn forms, “fan” shaped raised panels, and heavily carved details incorporating organic decorations, such as grape and acanthus leaves.
LITERATURE: American Furniture and Its Makers, Winterthur Portfolio 13, “Cabinetmaking in Philadelphia 1820-1840” by Kathleen M. Catalano.
Philadelphia Empire Furniture by Antoine Gabriel Quervelle, Winterthur Museum, by Robert C. Smith.
American Furniture, Paintings, and Silver from The Bayou Bend Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1975, by David B. Warren.
Philadelphia Empire Furniture, Hanover and London, 2006, by John W. Boor.
Classical Taste in America 1800-1840, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1993, by Wendy Cooper
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