During the eighteenth century, mirrors were often placed on top of chests or dressing tables; during the first two decades of the nineteenth century, it became the practice in Massachusetts to incorporate both forms into a single piece. The tier of small drawers directly under the glass and the scrolled brackets flanking the mirror unify the vertical essentials of the mirror with the horizontal lines of the chest below, creating a successful blending of form and function.
Several decorative elements distinguish this bureau and dressing glass from other examples. These include the robust carving on the tops of the legs, the turret capitals on the corners of the upper tier of drawers and the gilt stenciling on the scrolled "lyre-form" brackets. It is a very fine example of a small group of related bureaus from Massachusetts; the refined execution of the carving suggests that it was made in Salem. A dressing bureau with a history of descent in the family of Elias Hasket Derby has engaged turret-top legs with dimensional carving down the legs as well as gilt decoration on the scrolling brackets; it is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and is illustrated in Robert D. Mussey, The Furniture Masterworks of John and Thomas Seymour (Salem, 2003), pp. 258-259, cat. no. 62 (see fig. 1). For an additional related bureau, see Charles F. Montgomery, American Furniture, The Federal Period (New York, 1966), pp. 187-188.