Fireplace wall paneling from the John Hewlett House

Maker: Probably John Hewlett

Date: 1740–60

Geography: Made in Woodbury, New York, United States

Culture: American

Dimensions: Panel: 9 ft. 3/4 in. x 17 ft. 3 in.

Classification: Architecture

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Robert W. de Forest, 1910

Accession Number: 10.183


The Hewlett Room came to the Metropolitan Museum from a house built for a member of the John Hewlett family in Woodbury, New York, in the middle of the eighteenth century. One of the only surviving photographs of the house shows a five-bay, one-and-a-half-story building perched atop a high basement. The 1911 Museum Bulletin announcing the acquisition of the woodwork from the house described its plan as having four rooms on the principal floor and no center hall. The lack of a center hall made the plan of this house more like that of the pre-Georgian Hart House. However, the decoration of the house's parlor participated fully in the Georgian aesthetic.

Hidden beneath smooth plaster walls, the structure of the house no longer served as a decorative element. Instead, the decoration consists of applied moldings based on classical profiles. The molded chair rail, cornice, and door and window surrounds are the result of woodworking planes drawn over boards to create pleasingly curved surfaces. They reflect the skills and toolbox of the cabinetmaker as much as the housewright.

The artistry of the craftsman is most evident in the room's fireplace wall. This fully paneled wall draws together a variety of classical elements from one of the many popular English pattern books of the period. Though the wall is not symmetrical, the rhythmic application of Doric fluted pilasters gives the overall composition a sense of order and proportion. A provincial interpretation of these classical devices, the two small pilasters above the fireplace appear to rest on thin air. The China cupboard to the left of the fireplace is set within a decorative Palladian arch. A smaller arch beneath the cupboard is framed by two additional fluted pilasters. Inside the cupboard, a Rococo shell forms the base of the cove, its ridges radiating outward.