Side Chair

Made by John Aitken, American (born Scotland), c. 1760/65 - 1839. Designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, American (born England), 1764 - 1820. Decorated by George Bridport, American (born England), 1783 - 1819.

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Gessoed, painted and gilded tulip poplar and oak, with cane

34 1/2 × 20 3/16 × 21 inches (87.6 × 51.2 × 53.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the gift (by exchange) of Mrs. Alex Simpson, Jr., and A. Carson Simpson, and with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Raley and various donors, 1986

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British-born architect B. Henry Latrobe is known to have designed furniture for the interiors of many of his commissions and, between 1808 and 1810, at least two painted furniture commissions-for the White House of Dolley and James Madison that was destroyed in the 1814 burning of Washington, D.C., and this one, which was made for the house of Philadelphia merchant William Waln and his wife Mary Wilcocks Waln.

A Philadelphia carpenter named Thomas Wetherill signed the reverse of the pier table mirror in a bold script, proudly laying claim to manufacturing at least that table. George Bridport, a London-trained draftsman and ornamental painter of walls and furniture, executed the ornamental wall decoration for the drawing room of the Waln's house and the painted decoration on this set of drawing room furniture. The technical quality of the decoration far exceeds that on painted furniture made in other American cities during this period.

Latrobe gave directions for the design of ornamental wall decoration in the Waln's drawing room: "friezes . . . more than two feet broad with Flaxman's Iliad or Odyssey in flat Etruscan color, giving only outline on a rich ground." A room corresponding to those dictates was created in 1987 for the Museum's exhibition Federal Philadelphia, 1785-1825: The Athens of the Western World.