A distinctly American form, the dressing bureau illustrated here combines the English dressing glass with a traditional Massachusetts case form. Resting on a table, the dressing glass, known through imported varieties and pattern books such as George Hepplewhite's The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide (London, 1794) (see pl.71), proved insufficient for those such as Eliza Leslie, who wrote that they "scarcely show more than your head, and are easily upset" (cited in Monkhouse and Michie, American Furniture in Pendleton House (Rhode Island, 1986), p.67). By the first decade of the nineteenth century, the new form incorporating dressing and storing functions, began to appear in Boston, Salem, and Providence.
The attribution to John and Thomas Seymour is based on both decorative and structural features of the bureau. Characteristic of the Seymour shop is the extremely fine attention and balance to all aspects of craft and design including those that may be hidden or not immediately evident. On this dressing bureau, every surface is considered; dark rosewood inlaid borders around the shimmering bird's eye-maple drawer faces are lightened with dart inlays and the edges of the front outset corners are line-inlaid around the edges thereby bringing the eye around their circular forms. The shaded lunette inlay along the front of the base extends around the front legs in an unusual gesture of accomplished cabinetry. Other tables attributed to Seymour that incorporate this feature include a sewing table in the Karolik Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and a number of other card tables all illustrated in Stoneman, John and Thomas Seymour: Cabinetmakers in Boston, 1794-1816 (Boston, 1959), figs.134, 132, 118).
In addition, the upper section has been made so that it fits into raised applied moldings that receive it into the lower section. The Seymour attribution is further strengthened by the finely cut dovetails and the contrasting thin and thicker drawer bottoms from top to bottom sections of the case. Finally, the use of mahogany for the small drawers and ivory escutcheons are also associated with the Seymour shop (cited in Montgomery, American Furniture: The Federal Period in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum (New York, 1966), p.189).
The form and aspects of the decoration on this bureau are found on examples from Boston, Salem, as well as Providence, Rhode Island. For an example from Boston see Montgomery, p.188, fig.145; lot 729 features an example made in Providence.