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This photograph shows an ornate wooden turned armchair with a triangular seat supported by three legs and reinforced by a wooden fin attached to the back leg. The two front arms of the chair have turned details above seat height and are rounded at top. At the pointed back of the triangular seat are a total of nine carved rods that support the upper back. Four thick spindles connect the upper arms to the backrest. Many rods and roundels make up the back of the chair, which is topped with six vertical elements.
This object does not yet have a description.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Unidentified Artist
"The President's Chair"; Turned Great Chair
Work Type
c. 1550-1600
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

European ash with later American oak handgrips
118.1 x 82.6 x 53.3 cm (46 1/2 x 32 1/2 x 21 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Loan from The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Loan from The President and Fellows of Harvard College
Object Number
European and American Art

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This chair was first used by Rev. Edward Holyoke (1689-1769), President of Harvard 1737-1769, and may have been obtained by him. In John Singleton Copley's portrait of Edward Holyoke (See object number H6 in collections online), Holyoke is depicted seated in this chair.

Publication History

  • Julia W. Torrey, "Ancestors of the Turned Chair", The Magazine Antiques, Antiques (New York, July 1937), p. 121, fig. 6
  • Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent, New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1982), pp. 511-12, no. 471
  • John Rosario-Pérez, "Celebrating the Installation", Harvard University Gazette, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, October 18, 1991), p. 14
  • Sandra Grindlay, "Harvard's Portraits: An American Treasure", Harvard University Art Museums Review (Fall 1992), vol. II, no. 1, pp. 6-7, p. 6
  • Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), pp. 2-3, 10, fig. 1, cat. 9
  • Robert Hughes, American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (New York, NY, 1997), pp. 30-31, fig. 18
  • Marvin Hightower, "An 'imposing, ancient, and curious throne'", Harvard University Gazette (October 11 2001), ill.
  • Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press (U.S.) and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), p. 271
  • Naomi Yin Yin Szeto, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Chairs for Viewing the World through Time, exh. cat., Hong Kong Heritage Museum (Hong Kong, 2014), p. 385, repr.
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Ivan Gaskell, Sara Schechner, and Sarah Anne Carter, Tangible Things: Making History through Objects, Oxford University Press (NY) (New York, 2015), pp. 130-132, repr. p. 131 as fig. 105 and p. 132 as figs. 106-107
  • Benjamin D. Senzer, "When the President Took A Seat", Fifteen Minutes, President and Fellows of Harvard College ([e-journal], February 15, 2018),, accessed February 20, 2018

Exhibition History

  • John Singleton Copley, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 09/18/1965 - 10/31/1965; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 11/20/1965 - 01/02/1966; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 01/22/1966 - 03/06/1966
  • New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 05/05/1982 - 08/22/1982
  • American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994
  • The Persistence of Memory: Continuity and Change in American Cultures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/29/1995 - 05/13/2001
  • Tangible Things, Schlesinger Library, Cambridge, 01/24/2011 - 05/29/2011
  • 32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 02/13/2015; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/17/2017 - 01/07/2018

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Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at