An important Federal inlaid mahogany desk and bookcase, attributed to the shop of John Shaw, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1800.
This impressive desk and bookcase exhibits several design and construction features that are identical to a number of examples labeled by John Shaw [1745-1829] of Annapolis, Maryland. Shaw was a Scottish born cabinetmaker who had received a portion of his training by the time he arrived in Annapolis in 1763. A prosperous cabinetmaker, receiving several commissions from the state and as well as the social and political elite, his shop flourished during the Federal period. Most significant of the characteristics shared by this desk and bookcase and the labeled examples, is the distinctive crest. The flared cornice decorated with tightly spaced Gothic brackets finished with half round drop finials is identical on each example.
The raised bookcase top has a flared cornice molding above a pair of glazed doors with delicate oval patterned mullions centering rectangular mirrored panels. The doors, which are upholstered, open to three adjustable bookshelves. The doors have been upholstered with pleated curtains, as was the fashion of the early 19th century. The bookcase rests on a chest with four long drawers with brass bail-form pulls. The larger top drawer is a fold down butler’s desk. The drawer opens to a writing surface and is fitted with symmetrical drawers and cubbies, that center a locking door that is referred to as the prospect door. This door is neatly inlaid with a tombstone-form border around a detailed American eagle inlay. This specific eagle inlay is found on several other prospect doors in desks signed and attributed to John Shaw. The concept of a fold down butler’s desk became fashionable during the Federal period and was considered a more elegant solution to the earlier slant front desks. The desk rests on well proportioned ogee bracket feet with shaped returns and dramatically flared cuffs.
Dimensions: Height 89 5/8”; Width 42 3/8”; Depth 21; Desk Height 32”
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