With its brilliant ormolu mounts and exotic rosewood veneers, this secretaire a abattant was constructed using some of the costliest materials available to cabinetmakers in New York. Although the use of rosewood and brass banding point to an English Regency aesthetic, the form itself is distinctly French and inspired by plates published in Pierre de la Mésangère's Collection des Meubles et Objets de Goût editions between 1802 and 1826, including plate 57 from the 1803 version, which highlights the use of large sheets of figured veneers, ormolu capitals and bases on the columns as well as appliques on the friezes (Peter M. Kenny and Michael K. Brown, Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (New York, 2011), p. 214). The relatively few surviving New York examples of the form suggest that it had limited appeal and, in fact, was not included in the city's price book for cabinetmaking until the 1834 edition (Kenny and Brown, p. 214). Their tight, compact size made them better suited for a lady's use in the dressing room or parlor as not only a writing desk but also for the display of fashionable busts, clocks or lamps.
The present lot is nearly identical to an example in a private collection that was exhibited in the Duncan Phyfe exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011-12 (Kenny and Brown, p. 214, p. 37), as well as another secretaire in private hands. All feature very similar brass banding around the door panels against otherwise plain rosewood veneers. This piece also relates closely to a secretary bookcase likely supplied by Duncan Phyfe in about 1822 for Robert Donaldson (1800-1872) of Fayetteville, North Carolina (Kenny and Brown, p. 208, plate 33).