Diplomatic Reception Rooms

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The PassagewayThe Walter Thurston Gentlemen’s Lounge
The proportions and ideals of Renaissance architecture served as the inspiration for the architect Edward Vason Jones in his design for the Gallery.

Architectural Tradition

The Gallery was the first project in the architectural transformation of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms into 18th-century spaces. Its architect drew inspiration from the second-floor hallway of Mount Pleasant, a magnificent Philadelphia estate of 1761, and from Thomas Jefferson’s interest in Andrea Palladio, an architect of the Italian Renaissance who was influenced by ancient Greece and Rome. A focal point at one end of the Gallery’s long hallway is an arched Palladian window. Like other 18th-century-style windows in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, this window is cleverly set inside the plate glass that still lines the exterior of the Harry S Truman Building.

The Gallery before and after its architectural transformation.

The Gallery before and after its architectural transformation.

Historical Furnishings

The furnishings of the Gallery relate to the era of the American Revolution and tell stories of their owners’ tested principles in wartime. Along the hallway hangs an important portrait of George Washington by the American artist Gilbert Stuart. Other portraits include a painting by Edward Savage of John Hancock, the merchant and revolutionary leader who was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The subject of a striking portrait by John Singleton Copley is Frances Tucker Montresor, the wife of a British army officer who relocated permanently to England with her husband during the Revolution. In her portrait she wears a red coat, perhaps projecting her loyalist sympathies.

Set along the gallery walls are fine examples of 18th-century furniture from Newport, Rhode Island, made by John Townsend and John Goddard. For four generations, these cabinetmakers established a regionally distinctive style for case furniture marked by shell carvings and block-fronts. John Townsend made the slant-front desk, which he signed and dated in 1765. Other examples from his school include a chest of drawers and a bureau table. A Quaker and a devout pacifist, Townsend refused to pledge allegiance to King George III and was sent to prison by the British, who occupied Newport in 1777. In a central niche is a chest of drawers owned by Ebenezer Storer, a prominent Boston merchant who helped fund the Revolution. It is notable for its curving or bulging sides, a style called bombé.

The hallway is lined with Philadelphia side chairs in the Queen Anne style. These originally belonged to Thomas Mifflin, George Washington’s major general who fought in the Battles of Long Island, Trenton, and Princeton. Like Townsend, he was also a Quaker, but he put aside the Quaker principles of pacifism to fight for American independence.

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The Gallery
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The Architect

Edward Vason Jones
Edward Vason Jones mastered the tradition of architectural classicism, and composed the vision to transform the Diplomatic Reception Rooms into extraordinary tableaus that reflect the height of early American fine and decorative arts.
The Work of Edward Vason Jones

Objects in This Room

Chippendale Figured Mahogany Reverse-Serpentine Desk and Bookcase

Chippendale Figured Mahogany Reverse-Serpentine Desk and Bookcase

Unknown
ca. 1760-1780
wood; mahogany; eastern white pine
Portrait of John Hancock

Portrait of John Hancock

Savage, Edward
1785
oil on canvas
Paris Porcelain Vase

Paris Porcelain Vase

Unknown
ca. 1830-1840
ceramic; porcelain with overglaze enamels and gilt, mounted on a black stone base
Chippendale Mahogany Reverse-Serpentine Bombe Chest of Drawers

Chippendale Mahogany Reverse-Serpentine Bombe Chest of Drawers

Shop of Thomas Sherburne
ca. 1770-1785
wood; mahogany; eastern white pine
Chippendale Figured Mahogany Shell-and-Block Chest of Drawers

Chippendale Figured Mahogany Shell-and-Block Chest of Drawers

Townsend, John
ca. 1770-1790
wood; mahogany; yellow-poplar; chestnut; southern yellow pine
Two from a Set of Six Chippendale Carved Mahogany Side Chairs

One of Six Chippendale Carved Mahogany Side Chairs

Unknown
ca. 1750-1770
wood; mahogany; southern yellow pine; yellow-poplar; Spanish cedar
Chippendale Mahogany Block-and-Shell Slant-Front Desk

Chippendale Mahogany Block-and-Shell Slant-Front Desk

Townsend, John
1765
wood; mahogany; yellow-poplar; eastern red cedar
Chippendale Mahogany Block-Front Bureau Table

Chippendale Mahogany Block-Front Bureau Table

Townsend-Goddard School
ca. 1760-1790
wood; mahogany; chestnut; eastern red cedar; eastern white pine; yellow-poplar; poplar; aspen (possible)
Chippendale Carved Mahogany Serpentine-Front Card Table

Chippendale Carved Mahogany Serpentine-Front Card Table

Townsend, John
ca. 1760-1785
wood; mahogany; soft maple; hickory; yellow-poplar; northern white cedar; thuja (possible)
Chippendale Figured Mahogany High Chest of Drawers

Chippendale Figured Mahogany High Chest of Drawers

Townsend-Goddard School
ca. 1765-1800
wood; mahogany; mahogany veneer; chestnut; southern yellow pine; yellow-poplar
French Silver Soup Tureen Dish, Cover and Stand

French Silver Soup Tureen Dish, Cover and Stand

Odiot, Jean-Baptiste-Claude
ca. 1800
metal; silver
View of the Niagara Falls from the American Shore

View of the Niagara Falls from the American Shore

Havell, Jr., Robert
ca. 1844-1850
oil on canvas, in the original gilt frame
Portrait of Frances Tucker Montresor

Portrait of Frances Tucker Montresor

Copley, John Singleton
ca. 1778
oil on canvas, in a period gilt frame
Portrait of George Washington

Portrait of George Washington

Stuart, Gilbert
ca. 1803-1805
oil on canvas
View on the Kiskeminitas [Kiskiminetas]

View on the Kiskeminitas [Kiskiminetas]

Shaw, John
1838
oil on canvas
Examples from a Fifty-Five Piece Chinese Export Porcelain Green Fitzhugh Part Dinner Service Made for Benjamin Leedom

Fifty-Five Piece Chinese Export Porcelain Green Fitzhugh Part Dinner Service Made for Benjamin Leedom

Unknown
ca. 1810-1820
ceramic; porcelain