Here’s a peek at what’s coming together in the Blue Room: one of six handsomely carved English rococo chairs, c. 1755-1765, dressed with a reproduction slip cover of “fashionable . . . blew and white” printed cotton.

Figure 1 An English rococo chair, c. 1755-1765, stands ready for the opening of the restored Blue Room. In the center on the wall at right, the c. 1980 reveal on the chair rail shows some of the previous paint layers in the room’s 260-year history. (MVLA, Purchased with funds provided by the Christine and Jaime Yordán Foundation, 2016)The beautifully preserved set represents the six mahogany chairs that stood in the Blue Room in 1799, as recorded on George Washington’s probate inventory. While the original chairs for the Blue Room have not survived, analysis of the Washingtons’ purchasing history suggests the chairs were high-quality, but old-fashioned, English examples that had been moved into the chamber from the first-floor rooms.

With their maze of strapwork supporting a Gothic trefoil at the center back of the chair, the illusions of bird-like silhouettes created by the cut-outs, and the delicate leaves and rosettes that spring to life from the rich red Caribbean mahogany, the chairs are more than just works of art. Their presence reminds us that bedchambers were highly sociable spaces, not the purely private retreats we think of in modern homes. Providing more than just functional benches, the Washingtons’ Blue Room was ready to welcome a gathering for conversation, tea, reading, and other amusements, in a setting only slightly less formal than the rooms below.

Acquisition of the chairs was made possible by the Christine and Jaime Yordán Foundation.

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