Secretaire Cabinet

Designed by George Washington Jack, American (active England), 1855 - 1932. Made by Morris and Company, London, 1861 - 1940.

Made in London, England, Europe

c. 1889

Mahogany with hardwood inlays

51 1/2 x 55 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches (130.8 x 141 x 69.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and with the gift (by exchange) of Julia G. Fahnestock in memory of her husband, William Fahnestock, 1986

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Morris and Company was founded in 1861 to produce furniture that was simple and honest in its material and construction. By 1885, the firm was also producing richly inlaid cabinets such as this example in the fashionable neo-Georgian style.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    A masterwork of High Victorian design, this cabinet on stand, modified as a writing desk with drawers and pigeonholes behind a fall front, is the most important example of nineteenth-century British furniture in the Museum’s collection. Among the most elaborate and costly pieces ever made by Morris and Company, the cabinet is decorated inside and out with exotic woods inlaid in geometric and naturalistic patterns. Wealthy Englishman Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead purchased the cabinet about 1891, bringing it with him when he and his American wife moved to the United States the following year. Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 204.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    In 1896 this "secretaire cabinet," a desk with drawers and pigeonholes behind two doors and a fall-front writing surface, demonstrates the sophisticated cabinetmaking skills that Morris and Company could offer its most affluent clients. It was praised by contemporaries for the perfection of its decoration: the design, skill, and freedom of its marquetry; the choice of woods; the cutting; and the coloring. Credit was given to its designer, George Jack, an architect and skilled woodcarver who was responsible for most of the outstanding inlaid furniture produced by Morris in the 1880s and 1890s. A student of historic furniture that he used as models for his decorative techniques, Jack applied the richly inlaid scrolls of thistle, oak, and ash foliage (repeated mirror fashion like a Morris textile pattern), cross-banding, and checkered border to an overall conception based on a stately eighteenth-century English cabinet-on-stand. Katherine B. Hiesinger, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 151.