Pennsylvania style


An arch-paneled Berks County, Pennsylvania, Kleiderschrank (wardrobe) dominates one wall of the principal bedroom (Fig. 15). It is stacked to the ceiling with colorful nineteenth-century papered hatboxes, all of which survive in remarkable condition. Such bursts of color not only demonstrate Hartman's skill in combining different mediums and eras, but also the couple's passion for collecting strongly in certain areas—there are dozens more hatboxes displayed elsewhere in the house. The mahogany Philadelphia easy chair, also purchased at the Copeland sale, is a later more developed example than the one in the entrance hall: it has C-scrolled arm terminals that are more tightly rolled and angle downward and shell-carved cabriole legs that end in claw-and-ball feet. The charming mid-nineteenth-century folk painting of a girl with her cat hints at the couple's special fondness for cats. They are featured prominently in the guest room, where a collection of nineteenth-century chalkware cats is arrayed on a shelf above a nineteenth-century hooked rug with cats (Fig. 17); and another feline is painted on a large travel or document box set on top of a Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, walnut chest-on-chest (see Fig. 16). Dating to the late 1760s, the chest-on-chest has bracket feet with an unusual profile, only two drawers in the bottom case, and the sulphur inlay decoration that is seen on other furniture from this region.  

The latest addition to the house is a sunroom off the back that overlooks a terraced garden. Hartman designed the sunroom to be enjoyed twelve months of the year—white silk twill upholstery with blue piping in the summer, a rich camel-colored wool with red piping in the winter. Fittingly, this sun-drenched room is ornamented with weather vanes that have survived harsher effects of sun—and of snow, wind, and rain: on one wall hangs a commanding Indian vane made about 1880 that retains its original surface, and on another is a selection of animal vanes, which are a particular favorite of the wife (see Figs. 7, 8).

Collecting is about exploring one's passion for art, history, and the people who both made and lived with objects and works of art. The search for the right piece of furniture, the unusual ceramic form, the complete set of Chinese watercolors, the hatbox in remarkable condition, or the well-preserved sampler from a school not yet represented  has defined this couple's collecting for more than two decades. Their focus on southeastern Pennsylvania—and the exotic cultures with which Pennsylvanians traded—grounds the collection to its locale. And mixed together with Hartman's eye for grouping and balance, it all lives comfortably under one roof. 

1 See Jean Kessler Wolf, "The Residential Architecture of Walter K. Durham in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, 1925-1968: The Typological Analysis and Conservation Guidelines," master's thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1993.  2 See Frank L. Hohmann III, Timeless: Masterpiece American Brass Dial Clocks (Hohmann Holdings, New York, 2009), No. 10.  3 Port Royal was a house built for Edward Stiles in Frankford, Pennsylvania, in the 1760s. Henry Francis du Pont purchased it from his dealer friend J. A. Lloyd Hyde and installed its architectural elements throughout his "American Wing" at Winterthur. 4 Prices of Cabinet and Chair Work (Philadelphia, 1772), p. 20.  5 One was purchased from a private collector and the other acquired soon thereafter at auction.  6 Lee Ellen Griffith, The Pennsylvania Spice Box: Paneled Doors and Secret Drawers (Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pa., 1986).  7 See Carl L. Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade: Paintings, Furnishings, and Exotic Curiosities (Antique Collectors Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1991), pp. 173-179.

ALEXANDRA ALEVIZATOS KIRTLEY is the associate curator of American art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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