Collections › MESDA Collection › Garden Bench

Garden Bench

Place Made:
Somerset County Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
1770-1790
Medium:
yellow pine –paint
Dimensions:
LOA: 96 1/4″; HOA: 45 1/2″; DOA: 28″
Accession Number:
4315
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Garden bench: Painted dark green with restored paint treated to simulate age and wear matching wear patterns discovered during conservation (top of crest rail, on replaced seat bottoms, tops of stretchers, tops of arms); crest rail terminates in a curve at each end; back consists of mortise and tenoned frame with four sections, each with diagonal slats, direction of slats alternates from section to section; curved arm rails terminate in rounded ends which extend beyond front posts; below arm rails on each side are crossed slats; each end of bench seat decorated with scalloped skirt; the whole supported by 5 sets of front and back posts connected by stretchers with vertical crossed members between front and back posts of the three center sets of legs; when acquired, remnants of the bench’s original green paint were still evident.

FORM: Benches of this type were referred to as “garden seats” by their eighteenth century makers and period design sources. A woodcut published by Bowles & Carver (London 1790) labels a similar bench-like seat as a “Garden Chair.” Benches similar to this one are also pictured in William Halfpenny’s RURAL ARCHITECTURE IN THE CHINESE TASTE (London 1755). On January 9, 1791, Chandlees advertised “Garden Seats, made and painted to particular directions” in THE BALTIMORE DAILY REPOSITORY. The 1770 estate inventory of Charleston resident John Snelling includes, “a Garden Settee…….L7.”

History:
The bench came from the 18th century Somerset County, Maryland, estate of Almodington. The plantation house on the estate was constructed ca. 1750 with a ca. 1783-1798 addition and has been called “one of the most elaborate plantation houses erected in Somerset County during the mid-eighteenth century.” The west parlor of the house with its raised paneling was removed and installed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an exhibition context for eighteenth-century furniture.

The original Almodington tract of land was surveyed for John Elzey in 1663 and passed to his sons Arnold and John, Jr., in 1664. John, Jr., died in 1667 leaving the plantation to Arnold who in turn bequeathed most of it to his own son, John, in 1733. It is believed that John built the Almodington plantation house. John died in 1777, leaving the plantation to his son Arnold. When Arnold died a year later, his heirs granted use of the plantation to Arnold’s brother William. When William died, the plantation was inherited by Sarah Elzey Jones (ca. 1798), wife of Major William Jones. At his death, William bequeathed the dwelling plantation to Sarah (Sally) and other portions to other family members. The plantation remained in the family until the late nineteenth century.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund