The Gallery was the first project in the architectural transformation of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms into 18th-century spaces. Its architect drew inspiration from the second-floor hallway of Mount Pleasant, a magnificent Philadelphia estate of 1761, and from Thomas Jefferson’s interest in Andrea Palladio, an architect of the Italian Renaissance who was influenced by ancient Greece and Rome. A focal point at one end of the Gallery’s long hallway is an arched Palladian window. Like other 18th-century-style windows in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, this window is cleverly set inside the plate glass that still lines the exterior of the Harry S Truman Building.
The furnishings of the Gallery relate to the era of the American Revolution and tell stories of their owners’ tested principles in wartime. Along the hallway hangs an important portrait of George Washington by the American artist Gilbert Stuart. Other portraits include a painting by Edward Savage of John Hancock, the merchant and revolutionary leader who was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The subject of a striking portrait by John Singleton Copley is Frances Tucker Montresor, the wife of a British army officer who relocated permanently to England with her husband during the Revolution. In her portrait she wears a red coat, perhaps projecting her loyalist sympathies.
Set along the gallery walls are fine examples of 18th-century furniture from Newport, Rhode Island, made by John Townsend and John Goddard. For four generations, these cabinetmakers established a regionally distinctive style for case furniture marked by shell carvings and block-fronts. John Townsend made the slant-front desk, which he signed and dated in 1765. Other examples from his school include a chest of drawers and a bureau table. A Quaker and a devout pacifist, Townsend refused to pledge allegiance to King George III and was sent to prison by the British, who occupied Newport in 1777. In a central niche is a chest of drawers owned by Ebenezer Storer, a prominent Boston merchant who helped fund the Revolution. It is notable for its curving or bulging sides, a style called bombé.
The hallway is lined with Philadelphia side chairs in the Queen Anne style. These originally belonged to Thomas Mifflin, George Washington’s major general who fought in the Battles of Long Island, Trenton, and Princeton. Like Townsend, he was also a Quaker, but he put aside the Quaker principles of pacifism to fight for American independence.
- A view through the Gallery into the John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room.
- Drawing of the Gallery’s arched Palladian window by Edward Vason Jones.
- Founding Curator of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms Clement Conger stands in the Gallery shortly after its renovation, ca. 1980.