Collections › MESDA Collection › Bureau Table

Bureau Table

Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany –cypress
HOA: 32 3/16; WOA: 33 7/16; DOA: 20 3/4
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Bureau table: Chest with two drawers at the top and three on each side; all surrounding a recessed compartment concealed by a door; molded top; ogee gracket feet.

CONSTRUCTION: Door: Flat panel conventionally fitted to frame, which is assembled with unpinned mortise and tenon joints; door surround glued to case sides and upper drawer rail and supported behind with segmental glue blocks; door stops on a strip nailed to the case bottom at the left side. Case: Corner joinery: Dovetailed at bottom. Top attachment: Sides run with full-depth half-dovetails to receive top. Back joinery: Horizontal butt-jointed boards nailed into rabbets in sides and top. Drawer rails: Fitted to dadoes which presumably are half-dovetailed, the joints concealed by facings on case edges. Drawer supports: One-inch strips the full thickness of the drawer rails, fitted to dadoes in case, not tenoned to drawer rails. Dustboards: Full-bottom full-depth under two top drawers only. Base system: Segmental blocks glued to case bottom to back bed molding. Foot block system: Horizontal flankers glued to bed blocks; vertical block bears upon flankers. Drawers: Frame joinery: Dovetailed, back passes sides. Bottom-to-frame joinery: Front and sides run with deep rabbet to receive bottom. Bottom section/joinery: Upper drawers have two flat butt-jointed boards perpendicular to drawer front, lower drawers have single-board bottoms. Runner system: Drawer side and full-length strip glued to bottom at sides, mitred at rear; segmental blocks used at front. Front edge finish: Plain; cockbeaded surrounds run on case elements.

FORM: Bureau tables were first seen in England in the early 1720s and probably developed in London first. The bureau table probably served as a dressing table and was a natural variation on a chest of drawers. The term “bureau” or “buro” first appeared in 1727 in both London’s Daily Post and in a Charleston inventory, a good indication of the up-to-date fasionability of Charleston’s elite consumers.

Chippendale’s DIRECTOR (1752) illustrates “Buroe Tables,” and a Charleston inventory of 1752 lists “A Mahogany Beaureau Table L9.” In the third edition (1762) of The Director the name changed to “Buroe Dressing Table.” Two years later, on 5 March 1764, Mrs. Mary Lloyd’s Charleston inventory contained “1 Beaurreau dressing Table L100.” There was one further name change. A 1797 Charleston advertisement offered sundry pieces of mahogany furniture, partly consisting of “Knee Chests of Drawers.”

Of the seven known Charleston bureau tables, this is the only one that retains its original feet and the only one with a pair of top drawers as opposed to a single long drawer. The “kneehole” or recessed area on this example is without a small drawer at the top (even with the surface) as is seen on two other Charleston examples. This was probably a customer’s option.

Credit Line:
William L. Gray Purchase Fund