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Desk, Fall-Front


Desk, Fall-Front Plantation
by Unidentified
Mahogany, wool, early 19th Century
Overall measurement
      Height: 58.7 inches  (149.2 cm)
      Width:  36 inches  (91.4 cm)
      Depth: 21 inches  (53.3 cm)
Inscription (on unfinished back panel): [indecipherable] / Brooklyn / NY
Cat. no. 65.00029.000

This combination writing table and bookcase, known as a fall-front desk or desk-on-stand, belonged to Capitol fresco artist Constantino Brumidi. Although it is unknown how or where Brumidi acquired his desk, it was likely used at his home studio in Washington, D.C.

Produced as early as the 1790s, this type of desk enjoyed considerable popularity in the 19th century due to its sturdy and versatile nature. The two-panel front on the bookcase of this desk resembles a pair of standard doors, but is actually a bottom-hinged fall board. The fall board conceals a number of drawers, file slots, and pigeonholes, and when opened provides a conveniently slanted, cloth-covered writing surface. A hinged-lid compartment on the top of the case provides additional storage. While the piece bears no maker's marks, the city "Brooklyn / NY" is inscribed on the unfinished back panel and suggests a connection to New York-the city to which Constantino Brumidi emigrated in 1852.

After Brumidi's death in 1880, the recipient of the desk was George Strieby, a decorative painter at the Capitol who had worked closely with Brumidi from 1877 to 1879. The desk descended through Strieby's family until his granddaughter, Anna Strieby Fogle, donated it to the U.S. Senate in 1971.