James Woodward ( American, 1839 )
The squared-off forms of the back of this chair, with its classically inspired details, mark a dramatic stylistic departure from the deeply carved, sculptural forms common to mid-18th century furniture. Cabinetmakers across the United States used pattern books to access European styles. Through such books as Thomas Sheraton's "Cabinet-Maker's and Upholsterer's Drawing Book" (1792), fashionable designs from London were readily adapted for production in the major cities of the east coast of the United States. The design reflects the remarkable similarity of forms and details that could result from such common sources of inspiration. This chair is from the Museum's set of fourteen, including two armchairs and twelve side chairs (1985.B.37.6). This particular set of chairs was made in Norfolk for John Hartwell Cocke's (1780-1866) Bremo Plantation, the Fluvanna County, Virginia estate completed in 1820. Once situated in the strict, neoclassical setting of the Bremo dining room, these chairs symbolized both the economic and intellectual power of the Cocke family, just as nearby Monticello did for Thomas Jefferson. Cocke was a "gentleman farmer" and publicist, a friend of Thomas Jefferson, a progressive force in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and a Brigadier General in the War of 1812.
Kevin W. Tucker, DMA unpublished material, Label text (1985.B.37.13), 2006.
See Plate 36, No.1 of Thomas Sheraton's Drawing Book of 1794, which was the model for this chair