Victoria here. In 2013, I was delighted to have the opportunity to explore the newly installed collection of early American furniture in D.C.’s National Gallery of Art (the post is here). A few weeks ago, I went back for another visit. Historical fiction writer Diane Gaston and I love browsing through the galleries — almost as much as we enjoy our luncheon in the charming Garden Café. In the distant background is the Gallery of the Kaufman Collection, which had to wait until we were well nourished.
Vicky and Diane
Desk and Bookcase, Pair of Sidechairs
Philadelphia, 1755-1771, Mahogany Glass, Brass
Philadelphia was the leading city of pre-revolutionary America. Colonial furniture makers followed the pattern books of leading English designers such as Thomas Chippendale. Many immigrant craftsmen came to the colonies, and fine imported goods arrived to serve the tastes and growing wealth of leading families. At the top of the desk is a mahogany bust “believed” to be of Catherine Macaulay (1731-1791), a renowned historian and author who “was a great supporter of American liberty.” (from the gallery label)
High Chest, Philadelphia 1750-65
Mahogany and sabicu (a hardwood imported from the West Indies); brass
Makers of furniture in various cities of colonial America had their own versions of the English models, with a variety of distinctive characteristics and decoration that enables experts to immediately identify the city of origin of many pieces.
Chest-in-Chest, Providence, 1775-85
Mahogany and Brass
The Providence style is similar to the characteristics of the Newport style. Here is the major difference: the “convex shells on the top drawer of the lower case are carved from the solid drawer front, rather than separately carved and applied. The original owner of this chest was the Providence merchant John Brown (1736-1893) who founded Brown University with his three brothers.”
Ann Barry, 1803-05 by Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828)
Oil on Canvas
Pair of Covered Vases, Jingdozhen, China 1790-1810’=
Card Table, signed ad dated by Robert McGuffin (1779/80-after 1863)
Satinwood and veneers
After the Revolutionary War, styles gradually evolved into what Americans call the Federal Style, based on the increased use of ancient Greek and Roman designs by Europeans. The somewhat simpler lines of the furniture are more neo-classical than rococo.
Knife Box, one of a pair
mahogany and veneers with wood inlay; silver
The photo above is included for the special enjoyment of Kristine Hughes. Victoria and Diane are well acquainted with Kristine’s admiration for the myriad knife boxes she finds on her travels.
Side Chair, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820)
decorated by George Bridport (1783-1819)
Poplar and Maple, gesso, paint, and gold leaf; cane seat
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