Large Irish George III mahogany secretary bookcase, the upper portion with an elaborate cornice carved with trailing shells, dentils and foliate moldings. The glazed doors with engaged fluted pilasters open to three fixed shelves. The desk portion has a figured fall-board opening to a tooled leather surface and interior fitted with pigeon holes and small drawers, centered by a quarter-matched prospect door and two document slots with brick-work inlay. The lower portion has an unusual drawer configuration of four long graduated drawers flanked by short drawers, each with replaced shell hardware, all on a carved molding raised on three bracket feet.
64" wide at the cornice
20" deep, closed
36.5" deep, open
Ireland c. 1780
Condition: Refinished in the early 20th c, when all of the brass hardware was replaced. The 12 panes of glass appear original. Repair around the lock of the fall-board, as evidenced by the dark area visible in the photos.
This monumental secretary displays many features characteristic of Irish furniture. The shell motif, as seen in the cornice, was a very popular decorative element in Irish furniture in the 18th century. In their book, "Irish Furniture", Desmond Glin and James Peil state, "The shell motif is particularly common on chairs settees and tables. (1) Further bolstering the Irish origin is the presence of the small drawers on the lower section. Whereas, the English cabinetmaker preferred doors, as seen in plate CVIII in Thomas Chippendales's "The Gentleman's and Cabinetmaker's Director (reproduced here), Glin and Piel state, "small drawers flanking long drawers on the chest section is a common feature on Irish chests." (2)
(1) Glin Desmond FitzGerald et al. "Irish Furniture: Woodwork and Carving in Ireland from the Earliest Times to the Act of Union" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) p. 103.
(2) Ibid, p. 121.