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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

American, 1764 - 1820
American, 1783 - 1819
Pair of Side Chairs
Gessoed, painted and gilded yellow poplar, oak, maple, and eastern white pine with cane

34 1/2 x 20 x 20 1/2 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection
Museum purchase with funds provided
by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund

Arts of North America

Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe regularly designed furniture for many of his commissions, including painted furniture for Dolley and President James Madison for the White House that was destroyed in the burning of Washington, D.C., in 1814, as well as the furniture for the Philadelphia merchant William Waln.

This pair of chairs is part of an extensive suite of furniture made for Waln to furnish a new house that Latrobe designed for him between 1805 and 1808. Latrobe’s relatively archaeologically correct interpretation of the Greek klismos form draws on the designs of Thomas Hope published shortly before and represents perhaps the earliest documented example of the style in America. The overall form, with severe rectangular lines and wide tablet, is a distinctive Philadelphia type. However, the painted decoration seems to have no parallel in other Philadelphia furniture, although very closely related painted decoration is documented to Baltimore. Likewise, the design of the en suite card table and pier table does not resemble that of other Philadelphia examples but relates to pieces made in Baltimore. What remains unclear is whether these chairs were made and painted in Philadelphia, made in Philadelphia and decorated in Baltimore, or made completely in Baltimore.