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A Rich & Varied Culture: The Material World of the Early South: Now through February 2019

August 17, 2018

Interior detail of Drayton Hall’s Desk and Bookcase (post-conservation).
Photo courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2013.

27 objects from the Drayton Collections make their official debut at Colonial Williamsburg’s Dewitt-Wallace Decorative Arts Museum through February 2019.

This new exhibit highlights the breadth of the material culture of the 18th century—furniture, ceramics, metals, archaeological artifacts, and more. The objects chosen from Drayton Hall’s Collections span the first and second periods of Drayton Hall when John (1715-1779) and his son Charles (1743-1820) were in residence.

Included is the most significant piece of furniture in Drayton Hall’s collection (shown above; post conservation): a rare, English-made desk and bookcase, c. 1745. Described by Ronald L. Hurst, Vice President, Collections, Conservation, and Museums, and Carlisle H. Humelsine Chief Curator, Colonial Williamsburg, as “the finest example of furniture to survive from Colonial America,” this exquisite piece is a testament to John Drayton’s wealth and sophistication, and his position as one of colonial America’s most significant merchant planters.

Download the pdf to see pictures of the objects described here: Drayton Collections Go Public!

a. Mahogany side chair from Drayton Hall. Documentary research indicates that this is one of 24 chairs utilized in the great hall. Such chairs may have been ordered for the main house, and are complemented by a matching settee that survives in Drayton Hall’s museum collection. Gift of Charles H. Drayton.

b. Mahogany stair bracket from Drayton Hall’s stair hall. This delicately carved architectural feature, original to Drayton Hall’s 1740s construction, was originally treated with translucent vermillion paint to give the stair hall a vibrant appearance.

c. Porcelain Garniture Set. Utilized to ornament the interior of Drayton Hall, this three-piece set was manufactured in Jingdezhen, China, in the 18th century and consists of polychrome decoration depicting chinoiserie figures in a garden with gilt foliate decoration on the outside panels. Gift of Charles H. Drayton.

d. Porcelain chocolate cups. Created in Jingdezhen, China, around 1720, these small cups were recovered through archaeological excavations close to the main house and were used to drink beverages made with imported chocolate.

e. Desk and Bookcase (formerly known as the Bureau Bookcase). This elaborate example of mid 18th-century British case furniture may have been located within Drayton Hall’s withdrawing room. Completed with 13 secret compartments, gilt rococo, brasses, and delicate wood and tortoise shell inlays, this object is one of the finest examples of furniture to survive from colonial America. Gift of Charles H. Drayton and Martha Mood.