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Lance Humphries
Provenance, Patronage, and Perception: The Morris Suite of Baltimore Painted Furniture

American Furniture 2003

Full Article
Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    The Morris suite of painted furniture shown in the oval room from Willow Brook—one of the houses depicted on the furniture—now installed in the Baltimore Museum of Art. (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art; gift of the city of Baltimore, installation and renovation made possible by contributors to the Willow Brook Fund.) The card table in the center of the room is from the Buchanan suite.

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Advertisement by John and Hugh Finlay in the October 24, 1803, issue of the Federal Gazette & Baltimore Daily Advertiser. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.) This advertisement for the Finlay firm depicts a side chair of the same form as the armchairs in the Morris suite, with the splat in the form of two gothic-arched panels flanking a central tablet.

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Pier table, Baltimore, Maryland, 1815–1830. Yellow pine and maple; rosewood graining, gilt plaster, hollow cast lead (mono­pedia), ormolu, and glass. H. 37 1/4", W. 45", D. 23 1/8". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art; bequest of Elizabeth Curzon Hoffman Wing, in memory of Hanson Rawlings Duval, Jr.) The description of Robert Gilmor, Jr.’s pier table suggests that this form may date earlier than traditionally believed.

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Sofa illustrated in Catalogue of the Celebrated Dr. William H. Crim Collection of Genuine Antiques, To be Sold . . . In the Fourth Regiment Armory, Beginning Wednesday, April 22d 1903 (Baltimore, Md.: A. O. Kirkland, 1903), lot 1127.

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Armchair, Baltimore, Maryland, 1800–1806. Maple and walnut . H. 32 3/4", W. 21", D. 16". (Collection of Hampton National Historic Site, National Park Service; photo, Gavin Ashworth.).

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    Detail of the decoration on the crest rail of the armchair illustrated in fig. 5. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) Unlike the houses on the Morris suite, decorations like that on the crest rail of this chair could have been painted by a craftsman from images in pattern books.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Side chair, Baltimore, Maryland, 1810–1820. Maple and cherry. H. 34", W. 20 1/2", D. 24 1/4". (Collection of Mrs. George M. Kaufman; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) Recent pigment analysis indicates that this suite of chairs is painted with chrome yellow. In 1814 Robert Gilmor wrote that chromate of iron was found in the Bare Hills area seven miles north of Baltimore on the Falls turnpike: “Perhaps in no part of the world has so much been discovered at one place: it furnishes the means of preparing the beautiful paint called the chromic yellow, with which carriages and furniture are now painted in Baltimore.” Gilmor’s observation that the pigment was used on carriages and furniture suggests that the Finlays—who worked in both trades—may have been using chrome yellow as early as 1813. Considering the abundant local supply, the use of this pigment may have reflected local pride. See Robert Gilmor, Jr., “A Descriptive catalogue of Minerals occurring in the vicinity of Baltimore,” American Mineralogial Journal 1, no. 4 (1814): 231–32. In 1818 Gilmor presented examples of granular and octahedral chromate of iron from the Bare Hills to the British Museum. He noted that the octahedral examples were the first “that had ever been seen in Europe” (Henry Ellis, British Museum, to Robert Gilmor, Jr., January 10, 1818, private collection).

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Armchair attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with crest rail medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1805. Maple and ash. H. 33 3/4", W. 21 5/8", D. 20 15/16". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, gift of Lydia Howard de Roth and Nancy H. DeFord Venable in memory of their mother Lydia Howard DeFord and Purchase Fund; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Detail of the decoration on the crest rail of the armchair illustrated in fig. 8. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 10
    Figure 10

    Side chair attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Maple, ash, and mahogany. H. 33 1/4", W. 19", D. 19 1/4". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, George C. Genkins Fund by exchange; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) This chair is from the Buchanan suite.

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Detail of the decoration on the crest rail of the side chair illustrated in fig. 10. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    Card table attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with skirt medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Maple and mahogany veneer with yellow pine and oak. H. 30 3/8", W. 38 3/4", D. 17 3/16" (closed). (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, Friends of the American Wing Fund; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The mate to this table from the Buchanan suite is illustrated in figs. 32 and 33.

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    Detail of the decoration on the skirt of the card table illustrated in fig. 12 showing the panel depicting a country house of the Buchanan family of Baltimore. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    Pier table attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with skirt medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Yellow pine, tulip poplar, and maple. H. 35 7/8", W. 45 1/8", D. 20". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, George C. Jenkins Fund by exchange; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) This pier table is from the Buchanan suite.

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    Detail of the decoration on the skirt of the pier table illustrated in fig. 14. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) This panel depicts houses on Gay Street traditionally thought to have been built by William Buchanan for his daughters.

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Circa 1927 photograph of the interior of 401 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.) This view shows the “yellow drawing room” in the residence of the Frank Key Howard family. The settee with Montebello depicted in the center of its crest rail and two chairs from the Morris suite are visible. One of the chairs has Grace Hill depicted on its crest rail.

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Circa 1927 photograph of the interior of 401 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.) This view shows the “pink room” in the residence of the Frank Key Howard family. The settee with the Banks of the City depicted in the center of its crest rail and the pier table from the Morris suite are visible in the far right and left.

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Lillian Causey, rendering of an armchair from the Morris suite, ca. 1936. Watercolor, gold ink, and graphite on paper. 14" x 10 1/2". (Courtesy, National Gallery of Art, Washington. acc no.1943.8.4390.) Charles Morris Howard owned this chair when Causey painted it.

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Manuscript list titled “Names of Country Seats/ on the Clermont Furniture,” Baltimore, Maryland, probably early twentieth century. (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Continuation of manuscript list titled “Names of Country Seats/ on the Clermont Furniture,” Baltimore, Maryland, probably early twentieth century. (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    Detail showing the “1” mark on the rear seat rail of the armchair with Belvidere depicted on its crest rail (app. 1). (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The slant of the numbers on the Morris suite is similar to that of the numbers on the manuscript lists illustrated in figs. 19 and 20. These numbers may be by the same hand.

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    WARNER & HANNA’S PLAN of the City and Environs of Baltimore Respectfilly dedicated to the Mayor City Council and Citizens thereof by the Proprietors, 1801. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.)

  • Figure 23
    Figure 23

    Detail of the map illustrated in fig. 22 showing William Gibson’s house Rose Hill northwest of George Grundy’s house Bolton. Both houses are similarly depicted on chairs in the Morris suite.
     

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Pier table attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with skirt medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1805. Maple; marble. H. 36 3/8", W. 48 3/8", D. 24 3/8". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, gift of Lydia Howard de Roth and Nancy H. DeFord Venable in memory of their mother Lydia Howard DeFord and Purchase Fund; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)
     

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Detail of the decoration on the skirt of the pier table illustrated in fig. 24. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)
     

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Francis Guy, View of the Seat of Colonel Rodgers, Near Baltimore, ca. 1811. Oil on canvas. 18 7/8" x 31 3/4". (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society; bequest of Mrs. Geneva D. Richardson.) Guy eliminated some details. By 1811 Druid Hill was stuccoed and painted yellow.
     

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Circa 1860 photograph of Druid Hill. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.) This image shows the house with the front portico largely removed at the time the dwelling was being converted into a pavilion for Druid Hill Park.
     

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Charles-Balthazar-Julien Févret de St. Mémin, Harriet Rogers, Baltimore, Maryland, ca. 1806. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society; gift of Helen Hubbard, Mrs. Walter Oakman, and the estate of Mrs. J. H. Ten Eyck Burr.) While in Baltimore, Saint-Mémin depicted several sitters with landscape backgrounds. Of the firmly identified images, that depicting Harriet Rogers, the daughter of Nicholas and Eleanor Rogers, is the only one in which a residence of the sitter is shown, suggesting that the Rogers family strongly identified themselves with Druid Hill.

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Detail of the map illustrated in fig. 22 showing Philip Rogers’ house Greenwood. The house apparently burned shortly after this map was made and was replaced by another structure of a different form.
     

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Settee attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with crest rail medallions at­tributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1805. Maple and ash. H. 33 7/8", W. 51 3/16", D. 22 1/8". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, gift of Lydia Howard de Roth and Nancy H. DeFord Venable in memory of their mother Lydia Howard DeFord and Purchase Fund; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)
     

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Detail of the central panel on the crest rail of the settee illustrated in fig. 30 showing the building housing the Banks of the City. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)
     

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Card table attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with skirt medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Tulip poplar and pine with oak. H. 28 3/4", W. 38 5/8", D. 17 1/2". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum; bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.) This card table is from the Buchanan suite.

     

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Detail of the decoration on the skirt of the card table illustrated in fig. 32. This panel depicts the pair of townhouses built by James Buchanan and John Hollins on Monument Square in 1799.

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Rules of the Baltimore Assembly, printed by W. Goddard and J. Angell, Baltimore, Maryland, ca. 1789. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.)

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Detail of the map illustrated in fig. 22 showing the building housing the Dancing Assembly Rooms.
     

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    City Assembly Room and Library illustrated in John H. B. Latrobe, Pictures of Baltimore, ca. 1832. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.)
     

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    1860s photograph of Central High School, Baltimore, Marlyand. (Courtesy, Maryland Historical Society.) This image shows the Dancing Assembly building after the third story was added in the 1830s. The ballroom, with large palladian window, was on the second floor, apparently extending five bays across the front of the building. The entrance to the rooms occupied by the Library Company of Baltimore is visible at the center.
     

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Side chair, Baltimore, Maryland, ca. 1824. Unidentified woods. H. 30 1/2", W. 17 3/4", D. 15 3/8". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, gift of Randolph Mordecai; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) Although this set of chairs has yet to be linked to the Finlays, their firm specialized in providing furniture and decorations for symbolic events such as the “silver supper.”
     

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    Detail of the decoration on the crest rail of the side chair illustrated in fig. 38. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)
     

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    Side chair attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with crest rail medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Woods not recorded. H. 34 1/4", W. 17 1/2", D. 15 3/4". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, Middendorf Foundation Fund; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)
     

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    Detail of the decoration on the crest rail of the side chair illustrated in fig. 40 showing the panel depicting Druid Hill. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)
     

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Side chair attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with crest rail medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Woods not recorded. H. 34 1/4", W. 17 1/2", D. 15 3/4". (Courtesy, Baltimore Museum of Art, Middendorf Foundation Fund; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 43
    Figure 43

    Detail of the decoration on the crest rail of the side chair illustrated in fig. 42 depicting an unidentified country house. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 44
    Figure 44

    Card table attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with skirt medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Woods not recorded. H. 29 5/8", W. 35 7/8", D. 17 7/8". (Courtesy, Mount Clare Museum House and the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Maryland; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 45
    Figure 45

    Detail of the decoration on the skirt of the card table illustrated in fig. 44. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 46
    Figure 46

    Pier table attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with skirt medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Woods not recorded. H. 29 1/2", W. 42 1/2", D. 19 7/9". (Private collection; William Voss Elder, III, Baltimore Painted Furniture 1800–1840 [Baltimore, Md.: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1972], p. 38.)

  • Figure 47
    Figure 47

    Detail of the decoration on the skirt of the pier table illustrated in fig. 46. The panel depicts a country house, possibly Robert Oliver’s Green Mount.

  • Figure 48
    Figure 48

    Armchair attributed to the shop of John and Hugh Finlay with crest rail medallion attributed to Francis Guy, Baltimore, Maryland, 1803–1806. Maple with unidentified ring-porous hardwood. H. 34 1/2", W. 21 3/16", D. 18 1/4". (Collection of Stiles Tuttle Colwill; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 49
    Figure 49

    Detail of the decoration on the crest rail of the armchair illustrated in fig. 48. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The structure depicted on the panel has not been identified, but it may represent a public building.