ENGLISH DIRECTOIRE SOFAS From Sheraton's "Cabinet Dictionary," 1803
DUNCAN PHYFE FOUR-SUPPORT TABLE WITH LID DERIVED FROM SHERATON See Plate noB
By Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum, New York City
B. ENGLISH SOFA-TABLE By Courtesy of Debenham Sc. Freebody, London See Plate 113, opposite
DUNCAN PHYFE SOFA-TABLE WITH DOUBLE-COLUMN END-SUPPORTS See Plate iiiB By Courtesy of R. T. Haines Halsey, Esq., New York City
methods of painting were not notably different from those of his predecessors. Out of the realm of nature he selected a rather narrow range of subject and effect, carried his work to perfection in his own way, and made that field his own. So, likewise, in furniture, did Duncan Phyfe: his typical work is as recognisable as a Corot landscape. We find in him a sense of proportion both inSlinctive and trained, a genius for the subtle or the sweeping curve: his work is of great beauty, perfect refinement, and shows meticulous care. In the literal sense of the word Duncan Phyfe was a gentleman, and his furniture was made for gentlefolk.
As will have been seen, Duncan Phyfe by no means Stood alone as the only fine cabinet-maker of the period, but as his was an extensive establishment and as his is the beSt known name in the annals of American furniture-making, a few particulars regarding him may be welcome. For the dates I am indebted to Mr. Cornelius.
Phyfe was born in 1768, 30 miles from Inverness, Scotland, and with his parents came to Albany, New York, in 1783 or 4. As he was then about sixteen years old he worked at his trade, and the Style with which he would firSt have become familiar was that of Hepple-white. Chippendale had died in 1779 and Phyfe's work shows no reminiscences of the now outmoded Style.
After beginning business in Albany, Phyfe came to New York City in the early seventeen-nineties and settled in Partition (now Fulton) Street in 1795. This was the time of the advent of Sheraton in the furniture world and Phyfe showed himself Sheraton's devoted follower, his early work being in that Style with some remaining Hepplewhite characteristics. Within a few years he was making furniture for members of the AStor family and speedily became prominent. He gradually added other houses to his original establishment and is said to have employed more than a hundred workmen. He finally retired in 1847, lived a quiet, comfortable life, and died in 1854 at the age of 86.
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