About This Artwork

John Kirkhoffer (Irish, active 1730s)

Secretary Cabinet, 1732

Walnut, holly, mirror glass, and brass
Height (overall): 217.2 cm (85 1/2 in.); Upper stage: 113 x 91.4 x 33 cm (44 1/2 x 36 x 13 in.); Lower stage: 104.1 x 125.7 x 55.9 cm (41 x 49 1/2 x 22 in.)

Gift of Robert Allerton, 1957.200

18th-century Dublin was a booming city, attracting furniture makers and customers from England and the rest of Europe. Among the former were the Kirkhoffer family, German Protestants who had fled the area of Germany known as the Rhineland-Palatinate to escape religious persecution. The family included John Kirckhoffer, who has been identified as the maker of this secretary desk thanks to modern technology, which revealed his signature inside the base of one of the small drawers, along with facitt / 1732 (made in 1732). It is fairly rare to find craftsmen’s names on their work during this time period.

The Art Institute’s piece is one of a group of five similar secretary bookcases, one of which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Victoria and Albert’s cabinet is probably most similar to the Art Institute’s; it shares the same bold setback, with the upper portion of the secretary literally moved back in relation to the bottom half and sides.

— Permanent collection label

Interpretive Resources

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