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Card Table

Artist/Maker:
Barnhart, John
Place Made:
Baltimore Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
1800-1820
Medium:
poplar –mahogany
Dimensions:
HOA: 29; WOA: 36; DOA: 17 15/16 (open)
Accession Number:
2387
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Card table with painted ground of olive green; decorated at center of apron with naturalistic scene in panel and with borders of a triangular design in gold and browns; turned tapered legs; when table opens, the folding leaf reveals a painted surface, this also decorated with the same designs of paintwork; when the table is closed, the folding leaf reveals a mahogany surface, with paint-decorated border.

FORM: The earliest examples of Baltimore painted furniture are in the classical style of Hepplewhite and Sheraton; both Hepplewhite and Sheraton applauded the “rich and splendid appearance” painting gives to the “minuter parts of the ornament” [See Charles F. Montgomery, American Furniture: The Federal Period, p. 445]. Elaborately ornamented furniture such as this may well have pleased the growing merchant class in what was at that time America’s fastest growing urban area. About the second quarter of the nineteenth century, fashion shifted away from a flat ground to simulated graining, and freehand painting gave way to an even mixture of stenciling and freehand, or in some instances (especially in designs comprised of fruit and foliage motifs), to complete stenciling enriched with freehand bronzing.

TECHNIQUE: Beginning about 1790 there was a revival of painted surfaces for furniture. In 1788 Hepplewhite commented on the desirability of finishing chairs in this manner: “For chairs, a new and very elegant fashion has arisen within these few years, of finishing them with painted or japanned work, which gives a rich and splendid appearance to the minuter parts of the ornaments, which are generally thrown in by the painter.” (Charles F. Montgomery, American Furniture, The Federal Period, p. 445) Sheraton, in the Cabinet Dictionary, gives detailed directions for both the preparation and application of varnish colors which were to be applied over common oil paint grounds.

SOCIAL CONTEXT: Elaborately ornamented furniture such as this may well have pleased the growing merchant class in what was at that time America’s fastest growing urban area. About the second quarter of the nineteenth century, fashion shifted away from a flat ground to simulated graining, and freehand painting gave way to an even mixture of stenciling and freehand, or in some instances (especially in designs comprised of fruit and foliage motifs), to complete stenciling enriched with freehand bronzing.

MAKER: John Barnhart, sign and ornamental painter, was first listed in the Baltimore City Directory in 1799. Barnhart may have been in business with Windsor chairmaker Thomas Renshaw for a time, since a fancy painted settee in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art is inscribed with both of their names on the rear seat rail. The naturalistic scenes on the signed settee are very similar to the scenes on the MESDA settee (Acc. 1124), chairs (Acc. 2386.1-2), and table (Acc. 2387).

CONSTRUCTION: This (and two tables in the Winterthur collection) has a mahogany leaf, in contrast to other Baltimore painted card tables. The front-to-back underbrace is typical to Baltimore construction.

STYLE: The protruding cuffs near the bottoms of the legs of this card table are typical of Baltimore examples.

RELATED WORKS: Matching chairs, part of the same set (MESDA Acc. Nos. 2386.1 and 2386.2).

Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Hunt Stockwell