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Architectural Elements from the Ezekiel Hersey Derby House, Salem, Massachusetts

c. 1800
House designed by Charles Bulfinch, American, 1763 - 1844. Archway carved by Samuel McIntire, American, 1757 - 1811
The architecture and decoration of this room reflect the new interest in the classical age that was kindled by archaeological discoveries in Italy, Greece, and Egypt during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Forms and motifs from ancient art provided the inspiration for the Neoclassical style, which was introduced in England by designer Robert Adam (Scottish, 1728-1792). This new style was characterized by a fondness for simple geometric forms, restrained use of antique ornament, and flat, linear decoration.
After the American Revolution, Elias Hasket Derby of Salem, Massachusetts, pioneered trade between the city's merchant-shipowners and Asia. The resulting fortunes made Salem the richest city in New England and a center for the building of opulent mansions in the fashionable Neoclassical style.
In about 1800, Elias Derby's son, Ezekiel Hersey Derby, built one such mansion, which was adorned with the ornamental woodwork, plaster frieze, and ceiling medallion now installed here. The handsome three-story, four-bay house was designed by Boston architect Charles Bulfinch. Two-story-high Ionic pilasters decorated the exterior in direct imitation of Robert Adam's design for the Williams-Wynn house in London.
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