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Gothic Dressing Bureau and Mirror

Charles A. Baudouine [signed](1808-1895)
New York

Although much American Gothic Revival furniture has defied attribu-tion, this dressing bureau bears the stenciled label of Charles A. Baudouine. Born in New York of French descent, Baudouine made his debut as a cabinetmaker in the New York City Directory of 1829-30, where he is listed at 508 Pearl Street. Later, he was active at various Broadway locations, especially number 335, which is the address given on the present piece, thus placing it in the period 1850-1855.

Baudouine was clearly one of the most talented cabinetmakers working in New York in the post-Duncan Phyfe era. Ernest Hagen, another cabinetmaker who was younger than Baudouine by a couple of decades and who worked for him for about two years, called him “the leading cabinetmaker of New York”.1 Further, a guidebook of 1852, A Stranger’s Guide in the City of New-York, directed visitors to Baudouine’s shop, which was described as “one of the greatest attractions in the City”. One label used by Baudouine in 1849-1854 declared that his shop at 335 Broadway “keeps constantly on hand the Largest Assortment of Elegant Furniture to be found in the United States.”^2^ Baudouine employed a work force of about 200, including 70 cabinetmakers.

Although Downing perhaps incorrectly observed that “elaborate bed-room furniture in the Gothic style is seldom seen in the country-houses in the United States,” he advised that “a Gothic character may be easily given to…chamber furniture by any joiner or cabinet-maker who has tools to make the necessary mouldings.”^3^ Indeed, Baudouine has, in the case of this piece, applied a series of Gothic motifs – pointed arches, trefoils, and quatrefoils – to an otherwise rectangular block, while in the elaborate mirror and its supports he achieved the desired Gothic verticality through a combination of Gothic ornament and Celtic knots.

In another example (private collection), unmarked but clearly from the same shop, Baudouine repeated the design of the base but used a more purely Gothic design for the superstructure, thus continuing a tradition of variation that had long been a practice of high-end cabinetmaking establishments.

1 Ingerman, Elizabeth A. “Personal Experiences of an Old New York Cabinetmaker.” Antiques LXXXIV (Novermber 1963), p. 578.
2 Voorsanger, Catherine Hoover, and John K. Howat. Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861. Exhibition catalog. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, p. 311, fig. 254.
3 Downing, Andrew Jackson. The Architecture of Country Houses. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1850. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1968, p. 442-3.
Description quoted from: Feld, Elizabeth and Stuart P. Feld, In Pointed Style. New York: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., 2006, p. 112.