Side chair


Object Place: Probably Salem, Massachusetts


Overall: 97.5 x 54 x 47 cm (38 3/8 x 21 1/4 x 18 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Maple, painted red

On View

James and Darcy Marsh Gallery (Gallery 121D)




Seating and beds

The oval back of this side chair contains a plume of five feathers with a bowknot and foliage below, painted in gold and modeled in brown. The oval frame and stiles are painted red with black borders and gilt details. The shaped seat is upholstered over the rails. The suqre front legs taper to spade feet and are painted red with a gold stripe down the center with black accents and borders. The rear legs curve inward.

These chairs may have been part of a set in Elias Hasket Derby’s Essex Street mansion, in Salem, before they were brought to Oak Hill. Originally they were painted white, but before 1814, they were repainted red with peacock feathers and ribbons. The inventory of the bedchamber describes them as “5 red painted chairs 25/.” The design is patterned after a plate in George Hepplewhite’s “Cabinet-maker and Upholsterer’s Guide” (1788). Hepplewhite praised such painted furniture as a “new and elegant fashion.”


One of a group of "24 Oval Back Chairs, Stuff'd Seats covered with Hair Cloth, 2 Rows Brass Nails at 34 / 40:60:0 pounds" bought in 1796 by Elias Hasket Derby through his agent Joseph Anthony of Philadelphia; some of the chairs were inherited by Elizabeth Derby and were used at Oak Hill, Peabody, where in her inventory of 1814 are listed "5 red painted chairs-$25" among the bedroom furniture. As the chairs show a white coat beneath the present red, they were presumably repainted between 1799 and 1814 for Elizabeth Derby's use. They descended in the Derby family to Miss Codman. From Derby House, Peabody. Lent by Miss Martha C. Codman, May 25, 1921; gift of Miss Martha C. Codman (Accession Date January 24, 1923)

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Martha C. Codman