Duncan Phyfe Master Cabinetmaker in New York Peter M. Kenny, Frances F. Bretter, Michael K. Brown, Matthew A. Thurlow

Publication date:
20 Dec 2011
Metropolitan Museum of Art
312 pages: 305 x 241mm
343 color illus.

Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854), known during his lifetime as the 'United States Rage', to this day remains America's best-known cabinetmaker. Establishing his reputation as a purveyor of luxury by designing high-quality furniture for New York's moneyed elite, Phyfe would come to count among his clients some of the nation's wealthiest and most storied families.

This richly illustrated volume covers the full chronological sweep of the craftsman's distinguished career, from his earliest furniture - which bore the influence of his 18th-century predecessors George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton - to the elaborately embellished Grecian pieces that were entirely his own. More than sixty works by Phyfe and his workshop are highlighted, including rarely seen pieces from private collections and several newly discovered documented works. Additionally, essays by leading scholars bring to light new information on Phyfe's life, his workshop production, and his roster of illustrious patrons. What unfolds is the story of Phyfe's remarkable transformation from a young immigrant craftsman to an accomplished master cabinetmaker and an American icon.

More about this title

Winner of the 2012 Henry Allen Moe Prize for Catalogs of Distinction in the Arts given by the New York State Historical Association.

Peter M. Kenny is Ruth Bigelow Wriston Curator of American Decorative Arts and Administrator, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Michael K. Brown is curator, Bayou Bend Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Frances F. Bretter, an independent scholar, was formerly research associate, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Matthew A. Thurlow, formerly research associate, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is on the staff of the Winterthur Museum.

"A catalogue that is packed with solid scholarship."—Martin P. Levy, Apollo Magazine

Page spreads


Watch the related video

In conjunction with the exhibition 'Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York', craftsman
Allan Breed turns and carves a bedpost after the renowned nineteenth-century furniture maker
Duncan Phyfe, taking us through the carving of a leaf motif. As he works, Breed explains the cuts,
the tools, and the intricate and highly refined techniques and behind each move, describing not
only the practical methods but also the poetic rhythm of cabinetmaking.

Related links

Visit the official Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition page