People often call Bartow-Pell to find out when we are open or if they can schedule wedding photos or a school field trip. But when the phone rang one morning in December of 2011, the voice on the other end of the line belonged to Stuart Feld of the Hirschl & Adler Galleries, offering to donate two New York tables to the museum.
One, a ca. 1820 trestle-base mahogany library table, was attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770–1854). The other was a ca. 1815 Pembroke table formerly in the collection of the distinguished Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Berry Tracy, who had given a memorable lecture at the mansion in 1966, describing it as “a magnificent example of the Greek Revival style in America…one of the finest houses of its period.” In the 19th century, the Bartow mansion was only 16 miles from New York City, a major American cabinetmaking center. In fact, the family lived there before moving to their country estate, and Robert Bartow’s publishing offices on Pearl and Water Streets were only a short walk from Duncan Phyfe’s shop on Fulton Street in lower Manhattan.
The handsome library table donated by Mr. and Mrs. Feld now graces the downstairs sitting room, and the Pembroke table is set for a cozy breakfast near the fireplace in George Bartow’s bedchamber.These exciting gifts arrived just before the opening of Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York, a major exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The World of Duncan Phyfe: The Arts of New York, 1800–1847 at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. The exhibition websites offer a taste of what we missed, and a further indication of how lucky we are to have received these beautiful gifts: