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Art & Design

Thomas Seymour, Lady’s Writing Desk, 1795-1800, Estate of Martha B. Lisle, by exchange

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Thomas Seymour John Seymour

Lady’s Writing Desk

Attributed to Thomas Seymour
american, 1771-1848
Attributed to John Seymour, cabinetmaker
American, 1738-ca. 1818
Lady’s Writing Desk
Mahogany, pine, light and dark wood inlays, ivory, brass and enamel hardware
109.9 x 94.6 x 48.3 cm (43 1/4 x 37 1/4 x 19 inches)
Estate of Martha B. Lisle, by exchange 71.075

Between 1790 and 1800, a new type of compact desk for women appeared in the shops of American furniture makers. The delicate, coquettish form with a writing surface and a small raised cabinet for papers is French in origin, and its immediate popularity led the French to dub it bonheur du jour (happiness of the day). The Museum’s example displays a refined geometry and delicate bellflower inlay decoration, characteristics that align it with the neoclassical style of furniture. The tambour doors (sliding doors of channeled slats glued to canvas), finely assembled drawers, and precisely cut ivory keyholes of this lady’s writing desk exhibit the highest quality of Boston workmanship of the period.

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