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John Marshall House

Collection Highlights

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Mantel Clock
France, ca. 1810
Ebony veneers, painted wood, gilt bronze, and enamel
Gift of Mary Douthat Higgins

This spring-driven eight-day clock descended in the Marshall family and belonged to John Marshall. While Marshall's home and many of his other possessions reflect his taste for the more restrained American Federal style popular in the late 18th century, this clock, with its elaborate gilt bronze decoration, neoclassical support columns, and airy feel is typical of the later French Empire style. Marshall's growing taste for more elaborate French objects may have been a result of his diplomatic trip to France in 1797 and later ties with the country. He is known to have brought back jewelry for Mrs. Marshall with him from Paris and the Marshalls' porcelain set is also French.

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Portrait of John Marshall (1755-1835) By William James Hubard (1807-1862)
Richmond, Virginia, ca. 1834
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. Jaquelin M. Robertson

This portrait, which many viewers find unattractive, depicts John Marshall late in life when the Chief Justice was nearly eighty years old. Apparently Marshall and his family found it an acceptable likeness because this copy was presented to his son, Dr. Jaquelin A. Marshall, in whose Fauquier county home it hung for the next quarter century.

Hubard, who was born in England and came to America in 1824, was already a well-known regional portrait artist by the mid-1830s. He painted numerous other Americans including Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. His portrait of Marshall was probably painted from life. Seven versions of this portrait exist, including one at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

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Library Bookcase
England, ca. 1760-1780
Mahogany and mahogany veneers on white oak and spruce secondary wood with glass panes
Gift of Miss Emily Harvie

The mahogany bookcase that now stands in the Large Dining Room was given to the Marshalls by Polly Marshall's parents, the Amblers at the time of their wedding. This extremely large bookcase would have been used to hold Marshall's extensive collection of books. It descended in the Marshall family and is believed to have stood in the dining room of the Marshalls' Richmond home.

1972.527_canton_bowl_top.jpg (435x421)Chinese Export Porcelain Dinner Service
China, ca. 1790-1810
Hard paste porcelain with blue underglaze decoration
Various accession numbers
Gifts of Gabriella Page, Mary Douthat Higgins, and others

Blue and white decorated Chinese export porcelain, also known as Canton, was extremely popular with Americans of all economic levels in the late 18th and early 19th century. Archaeological fragments have been found in slave quarters and the homes of modest Americans but even George Washington ordered several sets of "blue and white" china for use at Mount Vernon.

The John Marshall House collection includes many pieces of Canton that descended in the Marshall family and are believed to have belonged to John and Polly Marshall including a tureen, chip plate, pitcher, and several plates, bowls, and pieces of tea ware.

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Porcelain Service
Etienne Jean Louis Blancheron
Rue de Crussol, Paris, 1790-1810
Porcelain with painted enamel decorations
1972.580.1-42, 1978.581.1-6, 1979.11
Gift of Mary Douthat Higgins, Gift of Mrs. Cunningham, Gift of Mr. H. Norton Mason, Jr. & Family

This porcelain service, decorated with delicate blue enamel cornflowers, belonged to the Marshalls and is believed to have been used when they entertained Lafayette in 1823-1824. Tradition has it that John Marshall purchased the plates from President James Monroe, who had intended to use them at the White House, but no evidence to support this story exists. More likely Marshall ordered them himself during his trip to France, or perhaps commissioned Monroe (or someone else) to purchase them for him. In either case, the selection of a French porcelain set reflects the Marshalls' growing taste for French furnishings, seen throughout the house.

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Tea Caddy
England, ca. 1790
Satinwood with dark wood and ivory inlay
APVA Purchase

This elegant inlaid box served both a decorative and functional purpose. Is has two inner compartments which would have been used to hold tea and could be locked for security. The Marshalls would have used caddies such as this one when entertaining other elite Richmonders in their home. Tea drinking was extremely popular in Virginia during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and was often a symbol of one's social status because it required the ownership of elaborate and sometimes expensive equipment. This included specialized tables, pots, pitchers, bowls, cups, saucers, tongs, spoons, stands, and boxes.

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America, possibly Boston, 1810-1830
Rosewood with brass inlay
Gift of Mrs. Hunt Chipley

The graceful, curving shape of the couch is typical of the early 19th century. Events such as the rediscovery of Pompeii in 1748 and Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 had led to an increased interest in the classical world. This interest ultimately helped shape the style of the era, particularly its clothing, furniture, and other decorative arts, all of which showed strong Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Etruscan influences between about 1790 and 1840. This classical stylistic influence is evident in the shape of the couch and the pomegranate motif on the legs.

The couch is one of a pair which, along with several matching side chairs, have a history of ownership by John Marshall.

Sébastien Erard
England, ca. 1810
Wood with gesso and gilt decorations
Gift of Cary McMurran

Family tradition states that this harp was purchased in England for use by John Marshall's younger sister Jane Marshall Taylor (1779-1866). It was built by Sébastien Erard, a French piano and harpsichord maker who had workshops in London and Paris.

Although he did not own this harp, John Marshall is known to have had at least one instrument in his house. In 1815 he paid personal property tax on various luxuries including one instrument, either a harp, harpsichord, or piano.

choc_pot.jpg (435x326)Chocolate or Coffee Pot
France or Bohemia, ca. 1825
Porcelain with gold leaf trim and polychrome painted decoration
Gift of Miss Zelma Rogers

This pot is part of a twenty-six piece set that also contains eleven cups and saucers, a cream pitcher, and a slop bowl. The pieces are decorated with idealized images of exotic figures. The set was probably used for drinking coffee and/or chocolate, both of which were fashionable social beverages in the early 19th century. It may also have been used for drinking tea, although most teapots of this period are shorter and rounder in shape.

Family tradition states that John Marshall brought this set back from France in 1798 for his sister Elizabeth Marshall Colston, but the set post-dates Marshall's trip to Europe by a quarter of a century. It is likely that the set was purchased in the 1820s in Europe or from an American importer of European goods.

England and America, ca. 1750-1800
Leather, wool, and cotton

This saddlebag is believed to have belonged to John Marshall. The bag is made of polychrome wool tapestry in a floral pattern with leather sides, bottom, and straps and a striped blue and white cotton lining. The materials used to make the bag have deteriorated over the years as a result of repeated use, as well as exposure to light, changing humidity, and pollution in the air. Utilitarian objects like this one were usually worn out and disposed of and rarely survive to be collected by museums. The survival of this fragile saddlebag provides us with a rare glimpse at the everyday life of John Marshall the man as opposed to John Marshall the Great Chief Justice.

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Shaving Kit
American, probably, late 18th or early 19th century
Wood, hog bristle, soap, cloth
Gift of Miss Frances L. Ribble

This shaving kit consists of a wooden box, a hog bristle shaving brush and small bag, and several pieces of shaving soap. A note attached to the inside lid of the box reads: "The Shaving Box of John Marshall-Chief Justice of U. States." Although we can never be sure of its exact history, the box descended in the Marshall family and is believed to have been owned by John Marshall.


By Mary Willis Ambler (Marshall)
Virginia, probably Yorktown or Williamsburg, ca. 1775
Silk on linen
Gift of Miss Ellen Harvie Smith

This simple sampler was probably worked by Mary Willis Ambler when she was a young schoolgirl, probably between five and ten years old. The design is plain, but the stitches are very neat and the design is fully reversible. Working samplers was a common part of a wealthy young woman’s education. Not only did the work prepare them to produce the more elaborate embroideries and other decorative items (known as "fancy work") considered appropriate pastimes for genteel young ladies, but it also had practical applications as well. Embroidered letters (like the ones in Mrs. Marshall’s sampler) were frequently used to mark the linens in large family to help keep track of them on laundry day.

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Portrait of Mary Willis Ambler Marshall (1766-1831)
Thomas Marshall (1784-1835)
Oak Hill, Virginia, circa 1820-1830
Pen and ink on paper
Gift of Miss Lizzie Archer

This miniature silhouette portrait of Mrs. Marshall was made by her son Thomas in the 1820s, when his mother was about sixty years old. It depicts Mrs. Marshall towards the end of her life and is a sharp contrast to the bright and lively pastel portrait made of her in 1799, now in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (a copy of this portrait is on display at the Marshall House). The silhouette portrait was used as a model for another oil-on-canvas portrait of Mrs. Marshall also on display in the room.

Portrait of John Marshall (1755-1835)
Jeremiah Paul (1795-1820)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1815
Oil on panel in original frame
Gift of Mary Marshall Greer

This portrait was the source for a well-known engraving of John Marshall produced by David Edwin in 1815. Jeremiah Paul was a Philadelphia painter and portraitist and it seems likely that John Marshall posed for this portrait on one of his trips to that city. Paul was a skilled painter and received his early training from the well-known artist Charles Wilson Peale. This image of Marshall is much softer than the more well-known Hubard likeness (a copy of which is displayed in the Large Dining Room at the Marshall House) and depicts Marshall around the age of sixty. The painting is probably still in its original carved and gilded oval wooden frame.