This English late Georgian pine chimneypiece is identified as "existing wood mantel" on a 1922 elevation of the north wall of the Living Room [now Founders' Room] by the Blisses' architect, Frederick H. Brooke (1876-1960) [New-York Historical Society, McKim, Mead & White Papers, Bliss House]. This suggests that the mantel was then already part of the Bliss collection. The chimneypiece subsequently was reused in 1931 in the second-floor guest bedroom known as the Pine Bedroom and was left in situ there when the room was converted to the Byzantine Reading Room by the architect Thomas T. Waterman in 1941. Waterman made a copy of the chimneypiece, but with a different tablet design and without the elaborate carved moldings, for a matching mantel that he installed at the east end of the Reading Room.
Typical of certain English chimneypieces of the late-eighteenth, early nineteenth centuries, this mantel retains earlier eighteenth-century, so-called Palladian designs, including the scrollate jambs with leafage and the carved moldings with repeat motifs. The fluted entablature frieze and the central tablet with a flaming classical altar flanked by seated, winged griffins holding garland swags in their mouths, however, are more typical of later eighteenth century, Neoclassical designs. The griffin tails morph into vine rinceaux, a design also found on a late Georgian pine chimneypiece sold by Christie's: Sale 5730, September 14, 2005, lot 23.
Thompson, Arthur P. "Inventory and Appraisal of the Personal Property Owned by the Hon. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss." Washington, DC: typescript, 7/29/1938, 116, no. 411.
Acquired by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss in 1922 or ealier.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, ca. 1922-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.