Home & Design

George Washington’s Nose


TAKE OUT A DOLLAR BILL before you read this story.

Goldsborough Glynn Fine Furnishings, an antiques dealer in Kensington, Maryland, recently had in stock a certain set of dining chairs. And it might take you a few minutes to discern what was just a little bit different about them.

“We got these chairs from a lovely Chevy Chase family,” Margaret Goldsborough said in an email to MyLittleBird. Here’s the story . . .

“The grandfather from whom they inherited the chairs,” Goldsborough continued, was a naval attaché in Paris in 1931.” That was the time of the Paris Colonial Exhibition, a major international expo that Wikipedia says drew 7 to 9 million visitors. The American exhibit included a replica of Mount Vernon.

“The grandmother was very pleased with [her husband’s] assignment—naturally because it was Paris, and her husband was on land, not at sea. Family lore says the grandmother purchased the chairs at the exhibition and brought them home when they returned Stateside.”

What was so special about the chairs? Well, there’s no word on exactly why the family’s grandmother decided to buy them, but cabinetmaker who made them seems to have had some fun with them. The back splat of each chair has, instead of the usual bell-flower motif, what looks to be a caricature of the Father of Our Nation (here’s where that dollar bill comes in handy—also Gilbert Stuart’s iconic portrait of Washington).

I turned to the decorative-arts experts at Mount Vernon to ask if they knew about these chairs and, with any luck, could corroborate the story behind them. To no avail so far, but I’ll update this story if I ever hear back from them.

Goldsborough points out that this wouldn’t be the only furniture with a sly sense of humor. “Witness the dancing dining room in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” she wrote in a recent blog post, “John Dickinson’s iconic tables that grow one animal leg, and don’t forget the lips chair!” Hmm, some of us wish we could.

So what has happened to the George Washington chairs? Says Goldsborough, just before Thanksgiving “a nice young couple from Bethesda bought them. She’s very excited especially because she is an alumna of George Washington U.”

—Nancy McKeon

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