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Corner Commode Chair

Walker, Robert
Place Made:
King George County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 31 3/4; WOA: 30 1/4; DOA: 26
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Corner commode chair with carved front knee and one claw and ball foot on front; three modified trifid feet; scalloped apron on all four sides; pierced splats with heart design and three elongated piercings; arms end in scrolls with knuckles.

STYLE: The acanthus carving on the front leg is distinguished by having convex folds with deep, tightly-spaced chip cuts and long, overlapping fronds similar to earlier pieces from the Walker group. The smooth, flaccid toes of the front foot are also related to this group; however, the foot differs in the carving of the rear talon and in the shape of the ball.

MAKER: Robert Walker was the brother of William Walker, an architect and master builder who worked for several landowners in the Northern Neck of Virginia, including John Mercer, who employed William Walker to construct his new house, Marlboro, on the banks of the Potomac, and engaged Robert Walker to provide furniture. From documents we know that William Walker was in Virginia by 1730; Robert first appears in 1743. They settled in the Northern Neck and quickly became the builders and cabinetmakers of choice for the region’s leading families – the Carters, Fitzhughs, Lees, and Washingtons. William lived on the Potomac River, while Robert lived in King George County, across from Port Royal, a thriving port town strategically positioned at the midpoint of the Rappahannock. From a 1775 advertisement, we find that the Walkers were Scottish, originally from the parish of Dunottar, south of Aberdeen.

RELATED OBJECTS: See tea table (MESDA Acc. 3992) for similar carving and provenance.

The chair descended in the Garlick Rawlings Boggs (1884-1960) family of Spotsylvania County, Virginia, whose paternal ancestor, the Reverend Hugh Corran Boggs (1763-1828), came to Virginia after the American Revolution. A search of his maternal family lines suggests the chair came from the family of Boggs’s mother, Frances Cleve Wallace (1862-1945) and her grandmother, Eliza Travers (Carter) McFarlane (b. 1787), whose ancestors were among the most prominent and best documented patrons of Robert Walker’s cabinet shop. Through cousinly intermarriage, they were direct descendants of Charles Carter (1708-1764) of Cleve, as well as his brother Landon Carter (1709-1778) of Sabine Hall.

Several examples of ornately carved furniture by Robert Walker descended in the Carter family, including MESDA’s pie-crust top tea table (MESDA Acc. 3992) that descended in another branch of the family of Charles Carter of Cleve. This may be one of the “3 Arm’d Chairs” listed in Charles Carter’s 1764 inventory valued at one pound each, and the “one arm chair” listed in the 1812 inventory of his son, Landon Carter of Cleve, Eliza Travers (Carter) McFarlane’s father.

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton