After visiting Mount Vernon in February 1799, Englishman Joshua Brookes observed that the Little Parlor contained "a grand piano on which she [Nelly Custis] plays, a sofa, [and] yellow bottom Windsor chairs." Brookes' reference to "yellow bottom Windsors" is believed to refer to the color of the cushions on the chairs, but it is possible he meant the chairs were painted yellow, one of the most popular finish choices for Windsors at the end of the eighteenth century. The whereabouts of the original chairs are unknown, but they may have been similar to this example, stamped and labeled by Philadelphia chairmaker Robert Gaw.
Yellow-painted bow-back Windsor side chair with nine, three-part, bamboo-turned spindles, a shield-shaped, saucered seat, and four, splayed, three-part, bamboo-turned legs joined by H-mounted stretchers. The continuous bow back is crowned and beaded on both outside edges on the front and rounded at back and nips in slightly at the waist; its ends are tenoned through the seat and wedged. The spindles are tenoned into the seat and bow; four of them, two on either side of the center three, extend through the bow. The plank seat has a deep groove outlining the front of the spindle area that curves down to become a bead along the seat's bottom front edge; a continuous bead or groove runs around the entire top edge of the seat. Each leg is tenoned through the seat and double-wedged. The bamboo-turned stretcher support has two-part, single-swell side stretchers and a three-part, double-swell medial stretcher. The grooves of all the bamboo-turned elements and those on the seat are painted black. In addition, double black lines have been painted near the top and bottom of the back spindles, and a single black line is painted around the inside of the seat plank.
A plate of plexiglass is screwed to the underside of the seat to protect the surviving maker's and lender's labels.
Tulip poplar (seat), paint
Overall (H x W x D): 37 1/2 in. x 21 1/2 in. x 17 1/8 in. (95.25 cm x 54.61 cm x 43.5 cm)
Stamped in block letters on the underside of the seat at center front: "R . GAW".
Printed on a paper label affixed to the underside of the seat at center: "All kinds of Windsor Chairs, / Made and sold,/By Robert T. Gaw,/ No. 280, Second Street and No. 88./ North Front Streets,/ Philadelphia" in a rectangular surround with a pendant paterae at top center, bellflower swags on the top and sides, and palm leaves forming the base.
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