Category: Travel

The Furniture of Daniel Clay, 1795–1829

Daniel Sousa, Assistant Curator at Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, MA, was a Carolyn and Michael McNamara Young Scholar Lecturer at Colonial Williamsburg’s 72nd Annual Antiques Forum in February 2020, a series sponsored by the Decorative Arts Trust. Sousa was the Decorative Arts Trust Curatorial Intern at Historic Deerfield from 2017 to 2018 before he received this curatorial position. Sousa holds a BA in History from Providence College in Providence, RI, and a MA in History from The University of Massachusetts, Boston. In his Forum presentation, “Keeping it in the Family”: The Furniture of Daniel Clay, 1795–1829, Sousa uses inscriptions and other genealogical information to connect furniture between Clay and the previous owners. 

Enjoy this recording of Sousa’s lecture on our YouTube channel

For more information on Historic Deerfield’s Daniel Clay collection, see these Part 1 and Part 2 video tours with Associate Curator Christine Ritok. 

Read the 2020 Antiques Forum blog post for more information about the event, and visit the Decorative Arts Trust website for more information about emerging scholar lecture grants and the Trust’s many other initiatives that support emerging scholars. For updates, sign up for the Trust’s e-newsletter and follow us on social media

The Bluegrass State from a Distance: Virtual Visits to 6 Kentucky Sites

Even though the Decorative Arts Trust postponed the Spring 2020 Symposium in the Lexington and Louisville regions of Kentucky due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to report that many of the historic sites and museum collections on the itinerary offer engaging virtual tours. While digital exploration cannot match the in-person, curator-led experiences that members enjoy during our symposia, please enjoy these resources to get a taste for the Bluegrass state.

Locust Grove

Locust Grove
Locust Grove

Louisville’s Locust Grove is a 55-acre 18th-century farm with a c. 1792 Georgian house. The original owners, William and Lucy Clark Croghan, welcomed a generation of American luminaries to their home, including Presidents James Monroe and Andrew Jackson, John James Audubon, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Locust Grove’s online virtual tour lets you “walk” through the home’s interior, which has been furnished to illustrate the family’s wide connections and sophisticated taste.

Old State Capitol

Old State Capitol
Old State Capitol

The Old State Capitol in Frankfort, KY, served as home of the Kentucky General Assembly from 1830 to 1910 and was designed in the Greek Revival style by Gideon Shryock, an early Lexington architect. 

The Kentucky Historical Society offers live virtual tours of the Old State Capitol on their Facebook page on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:00 pm. You can access recordings of past virtual tours—as well as other engaging videos, podcasts, and collection resources—on their Virtual Visitor webpage.

Conrad-Caldwell House

Conrad-Caldwell House
Conrad-Caldwell House

Often referred to as the masterpiece of famed local architect Arthur Loomis of Clarke & Loomis, the Conrad-Caldwell House is one of the finest examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in Louisville. The house was restored to reflect the Edwardian era and contains an extensive collection testifying to the abundant lifestyle of the owners, two of Louisville’s most prominent businessmen and entrepreneurs, Theophile Conrad and William E. Caldwell.

For a glimpse into this stunning space, watch an informative video about the Conrad-Caldwell House on YouTube and view a Facebook virtual tour video of the Dining Room and Butler’s Pantry and a Facebook virtual tour video about the artwork of Conrad-Caldwell House.

Filson Historical Society

Filson Historical Society

Founded in 1884, the Filson is a privately supported historical society dedicated to preserving the history of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley Region. The site houses an impressive collection of documents, paintings, objects, and books.

The Filson Historical Society is currently offering digital exhibits, lecture videos, and audio recordings of lectures.

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill
Shaker Village

Developed from 1805 until 1910, the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill is a tree-lined and beautifully restored community featuring Shaker buildings, collections, and living history opportunities.

Shaker Village hosts many informational videos on its Facebook page, including a video about the Restoration of the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Waterhouse, a video about the University of Kentucky’s Department of Anthropology’s archaeological field school at the site of the original Centre Family Dwelling, and a video about restorations over the years from 42-year veteran employee Dixie Huffman.

J.B. Speed Memorial Museum

Speed Museum: Kentucky Sugar Chest, 1805‑1825
Speed Museum: Kentucky Sugar Chest, 1805‑1825

The J.B. Speed Memorial Museum in Louisville is the oldest, largest, and foremost museum of art in Kentucky, with a focus on Western art from antiquity to the present day.

As well as presenting their expansive collection online, the Speed Museum has created many videos on a variety of topics. Some of our favorites include an exterior and interior virtual tour video, a video about 19th-century Kentucky sideboards with Robert Brewer, a video about African Pottery, a video about teapots and teacups from 1900-1960, and a video about the quilt collection.

While we will miss seeing members in April, the Decorative Arts Trust hopes that these online resources will give you insights into some of the sites we had planned to visit during the symposium and the pre- and post-symposium tours.

We hope to have more information about rescheduling the Kentucky symposium soon. Check our website, follow us on social media, and sign up for our e-newsletter for updates.

Lecture Videos About New Orleans Decorative Arts, Fine Arts, and Architecture

The Decorative Arts Trust is thrilled to bring you recordings of our excellent lectures from the Fall 2018 Symposium in New Orleans, LA, thanks to the generosity of Anne and Wheeler Bryan. Trust Governor Tom Savage, Winterthur’s Director of External Affairs for the Winterthur Museum, introduces the speakers. 

Glimpses of the Past: 300 Years of New Orleans Architecture

Ann Masson, Architectural historian, Tulane School of Architecture

“Goods of Every Description:” New Orleans Craftsmen and Retailers, 1800–1850

Lydia Blackmore, Decorative Arts Curator, THNOC

Preserving a Family Legacy: Art and Architecture at the Hermann-Grima House

Katie Hall Burlison, Chief Curator, Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses

Salazar: Portraits of Influence in Spanish New Orleans, 1785–1802

Cybèle T. Gontar, Owner/Director, Degas Gallery of New Orleans

Moving Upriver: New Orleans Goods Throughout the Gulf South

Sarah Duggan, Coordinator and Research Curator, Classical Institute of the South, The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) 

You may also enjoy these previously released lecture videos by our two Emerging Scholars Program speakers during the New Orleans symposium: Creole Comforts and French Connections: The Material World of Françoise Petit de Coulange, 1732-1812 with Philippe L.B. Halbert, PhD. Candidate, Department of the History of Art, Yale University; and “A Lover of the Beautiful:” Harriet Joor, Newcomb Pottery, and the Arts & Crafts Movement with Maggie Dimock, who is now Curator of the Greenwich Historical Society, in Greenwich, CT. Read more in this blog post

The Decorative Arts Trust is committed to promote and foster the appreciation and study of the decorative arts. We offer many lecture videos and lecture presentation recordings on our YouTube channel, and we have digital versions of magazine articles on our website and many scholarly posts on our blog. Support for these endeavors comes from Trust members and donors. For updates on new videos and other online resources, sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on social media

Scholars Speak About Daniel Clay Furniture, Face Vessels, and Fulling Cloth at 2020 Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum

One of the highlights of the year in the decorative arts field is the Annual Antiques Forum hosted each February at Colonial Williamsburg.

During the 72nd Annual Antiques Forum, Decorative Arts Trust staff, as well as 150 of our members, enjoyed catching up with colleagues and meeting new enthusiasts in curatorial, research, design, and appraisal roles. 

Forum participants especially appreciated the Carolyn and Michael McNamara Young Scholar Lectures (sponsored by the Decorative Arts Trust) on Monday, February 24. Colonial Williamsburg Deputy Chief Curator (and Trust Governor) Margaret Beck Pritchard presided over the session, introducing the audience to the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program and the new Decorative Arts Trust Prize for Excellence and Innovation

Sarah Bryan, Daniel Sousa, and Eliza West speak at the 2020 Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum
Sarah Bryan, Daniel Sousa, and Eliza West speak at the 2020 Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum

The lectures began with Eliza West, an independent scholar from Richmond, VT, presenting Keeping it Close to Home: Fulling “Country Cloth” in the Early Republic. She studied colonial documentation and images to investigate the process of fulling wool for women’s garments (such as petticoats) and men’s garments (such as jackets). By working with expert craftspeople and using the scientific method and her parents’ washing machine, Eliza was able to recreate texture and shrinkage comparable to 18th-century records. She brought samples of the original woven wool cloth and two treatments of the “fulled” wool for Forum audiences to see up-close. 

North Carolina Folklife Institute Executive Director Sarah Bryan spoke about John Bull, Esquire: Reconsidering the Origins of a Southern Face Vessel. She shared her research into determining the maker of a face vessel with the words “John Bull, Esqr.” incised. The jug resembles several other face vessels but not precisely enough to definitively attribute it to one potter or pottery. The fact that “John Bull” was a personification of Great Britain and that this vessel is missing a protruding tongue further add interest and mystery to this distinctive object. 

Daniel Sousa, Assistant Curator at Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts, lectured on “Keeping it in the Family”: The Furniture of Daniel Clay, 1795-1829. He analyzed furniture passed down through generations of a family to gain an invaluable understanding into how objects were used in homes over the centuries. 

The presentations were followed by a lively reception where Trust members mingled with the speakers, staff, and other attendees passionate about the decorative arts and material culture. 

Other highlights of the 2020 Antiques Forum included visiting the expansive new Art Museum galleries, learning about the Carter House restoration, and interacting with the Custis Square archaeological investigation. Colonial Williamsburg announced that a group of donors created an endowment for the position of curators of maps and prints, which will be named in honor of the aforementioned Margaret Pritchard. Also, Decorative Arts Trust Executive Director Matthew A. Thurlow was pleased to present a lecture to the Vintage Ladies of Williamsburg on the country houses of Yorkshire. 

The Decorative Arts Trust has many other initiatives supporting Emerging Scholars and educational travel programs about the decorative arts. For updates, sign up for the Trust’s e-newsletter or follow us on social media

Colloquium Features Newport Scholars and Historic Home Tours

The Decorative Arts Trust was honored to partner with the Preservation Society of Newport County (PSNC) once again for an Emerging Scholars Colloquium in Newport, RI.

On Saturday, February 8, 2020, three decorative arts scholars shared their recent research at the historic Isaac Bell House.

The Isaac Bell House was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead, and White in 1883 for Isaac Bell, a wealthy cotton broker and investor. After passing through a succession of owners, PSNC purchased the house in 1996. One of the best surviving examples of Shingle Style architecture in the country, the house visually represents the search for an American mode of architectural design and is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Isaac Bell House, Newport, RI
Isaac Bell House, Newport, RI

Mathilde Tollet began the Colloquium’s presentations with her lecture “The Ornate Staircase Railing at Marble House: A Unique and Exceptional Reflection of Versailles in Newport.” Tollet (2018 M.A., Museology & Conservation, l’Ecole du Louvre, Paris, and Complutense University, Madrid) is a 2020 PSNC Research Fellow. She spoke about how the gilded bronze “trophies” on the railing along the Jules Allard-designed main staircase depict mythological themes: Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion, Tritons fighting a sea monster, the shield of the Amazons and the Medusa. Mathilde studied the original models for these designs, which are based on sculptures in a garden at Versailles, and has seen drawings  from the late 17th century by the original sculptors that match the images in the Marble House bronzes.

Mathilde Tollet presents “The Ornate Staircase Railing at Marble House: A Unique and Exceptional Reflection of Versailles in Newport”
Mathilde Tollet presents “The Ornate Staircase Railing at Marble House: A Unique and Exceptional Reflection of Versailles in Newport”

2020 PSNC Research Fellow Sébastien Dutton shared information about “Discriminate Doorknobs: An Inventory of Door Hardware at The Breakers and the Delineation of Spaces using Decorative Details.” Dutton (2019 M.A., Design Studies and Historic Preservation, Boston Architectural College) examined the remarkable variety of door hardware designs, styles, and uses at The Breakers and how each was employed to distinguish a hierarchy between public, private, family, and service spaces.

Sébastien Dutton presents “Discriminate Doorknobs: An Inventory of Door Hardware at The Breakers and the Delineation of Spaces using Decorative Details"
Sébastien Dutton presents “Discriminate Doorknobs: An Inventory of Door Hardware at The Breakers and the Delineation of Spaces using Decorative Details”

Kate Hughes, 2018-2020 Peggy N. Gerry Research Scholar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, presented “Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing.” Hughes, 2014 M.A., Sotheby’s Institute of Art–New York, shared her experience researching 19th-century stoneware of South Carolina’s Old Edgefield District at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). Her lecture included investigations of face vessels, storage jars, and other significant stoneware pieces. Read more about Hughes’s research in this article from The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust.

Kate Hughes presents “Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing”
Kate Hughes presents “Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing”

The Colloquium concluded with a tour of the Isaac Bell House by Director of Museum Affairs & Chief Curator Leslie Jones. Participants were then given complimentary access to Preservation Society properties including the Elms and The Breakers, both of which were subjects of the morning’s presentations.

Touring the Bell House
Touring the Bell House

The Decorative Arts Trust is committed to encouraging the next generation of museum curators and decorative arts historians through the Emerging Scholars Program. For updates on grant deadlines and special events, sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on social media. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive early pre-registration for events.

Philipse Manor Hall, Morris-Jumel Mansion Wow Members at the 2020 New York Antiques Weekend

Decorative arts enthusiasts had a smashing time visiting the Winter Show, Philipse Manor Hall, Morris-Jumel Mansion, and a private apartment during the Decorative Arts Trust’s 2020 New York Antiques Weekend

Held from January 24-25, the program sold out within a few short weeks. On Friday, January 24, Trust members met at the Park Avenue Armory (home of The Winter Show) and boarded a coach to be whisked away on an outing to two rarely visited historic houses. We began at Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers, where Federick Philipse III expanded an earlier family home to create an updated structure showcasing extraordinary 1750’s Rococo carved woodwork and a stunning  papier-mâché ceiling, one of only two that survive in America. The latter was recently restored as part of a “Save America’s Treasures” project. While the evolution of the house from a late-17th-century Dutch dwelling to a grand Palladian edifice is not well documented, Philipse III’s addition contains New York’s earliest extant expressions of the Rococo taste. Furniture historian Luke Beckerdite has connected the carving to Henry Hardcastle, a talented English immigrant craftsman who arrived in New York in 1751. Philipse Manor also contains an impressive collection of presidential portraits, including the six presidents from New York State. The group enjoyed a Cuban lunch at the Manor Hall and before departing for Manhattan’s Washington Heights and the Morris-Jumel Mansion. 

The oldest extant house in Manhattan, the Morris-Jumel Mansion was built in 1765 by Roger Morris, a British military officer, whose father was a London architect, who recommended an octagonal parlor extension on the back of the house, the first in Colonial America. Following decades of neglect, Eliza and Stephen Jumel purchased Mount Morris in 1810 and began a series of alterations that resulted in an updated Greek Revival house. The property became a museum in the early 20th century, and the exhibition was primarily dedicated to the Revolutionary War, when Washington briefly occupied Mount Morris as his headquarters. In recent years, the board and staff of the Morris-Jumel Mansion has updated the interpretation of the interiors to focus on the strength of the collection. Original elements from Eliza Jumel’s 1820s refurbishment were returned, which are supplemented by sympathetic decorative arts. Of particular note are the broad array of reproduction wallpapers commissioned by the staff to represent the Jumels’ interiors. The octagonal parlor features a sky and cloud motif, and the dining room contains a Zuber pattern called the Draped Cone.

Saturday began with the much-anticipated private tours of The Winter Show. Members were wowed by a variety of unique objects from furniture to silver to ceramics, described to our small groups by dealers who knew them inside and out. Also impressive was the Show’s special loan exhibition Unrivaled, which embodies the Hispanic Society Museum & Library’s exceptional collection, with masterworks from throughout the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, and the Philippines by artists including Velázquez, El Greco, and Francisco de Goya. Lunch followed in the elegant Board of Officers Room designed by Herter Brothers.

Later Saturday afternoon, members traveled to the stunning apartment of Rhetta Felton in the Verona, a c. 1908 Renaissance Revival building by William E. Mowbray on the Upper East Side. The renowned firm of Vincent Fourcade and Robert Denning served Mrs. Felton and her late husband as interior designers in their trademark “Le Goût Rothschild” mode. Against the backdrop of the apartment’s original interior woodwork, Fourcade and Denning laid out the Feltons’ impressive collection of English and French furniture; French, English, and Chinese porcelain; and Continental fine art. While we cannot fully describe the treasures in Rhetta Felton’s home for privacy reasons, we can say that tour participants were thrilled to see her spacious and beautifully appointed home. 

Overall, yet another New York Antiques Weekend was a phenomenal success! 

Details about the 2021 New York Antiques Weekend will be announced in late fall 2020. The Trust has many more special programs and events scheduled for 2020 and 2021. Sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on social media for updates. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive early pre-registration for events. 

Exterior of the Verona Building

Sold-Out New York Colloquium a Big Success

The Decorative Arts Trust is passionate about highlighting the work of emerging scholars in the field. One of our most enjoyable ways to do this is to gather recent research grant, interns, and scholarship recipients for a chance to share their research with Trust members during New York’s Americana Week. 

The 2020 Emerging Scholars Colloquium in New York City was a fabulous event for members and speakers alike, who joined a sold-out crowd for this fourth installation of the program. Co-hosted with the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and sponsored in part by the Wunsch Americana Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Donald B. Ayres, III, the Colloquium featured five scholars showcasing their discoveries in the field of material culture. 

Classical American Homes Preservation Trust Co-President Margize Howell welcomed the group to the George F. Baker Carriage House. Especially notable on the exterior of the Baker complex of houses is the Ionic colonnade on the east façade of 69 East 93rd Street. The colonnade, consisting of four matched pairs of fluted Ionic columns two stories high, frames a second floor loggia. These tall columns provide an elegant backdrop to what was once the Bakers’ “French Courtyard.” 

The Decorative Arts Trust’s Director of Educational Programs Kristina Gray and board member Ralph Harvard introduced the presenters:

  • Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing
    Katherine C. Hughes, Peggy N. Gerry Research Scholar, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Textiles and Design Exchanges between India and the United States in the Mid-Twentieth Century
    Vishal Khandelwal, Department of the History of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • The Eameses and The Case Study House Program: Introducing Scandinavian Design to Mid-Century America
    Rachel Pool Fillhouer, History of Design and Curatorial Studies, Parsons School of Design and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • A Tale of Two Families: An Engraved Tea Service in Antebellum Augusta, Georgia
    Kayli Rideout, American Studies, Boston University
  • Transpacific Scopic Frames: the Folded Spaces of Two 18th-Century Pueblan Cabinets
    Celia Rodríguez Tejuca, Art History, Johns Hopkins University

Peter M. Kenny, Classical American Homes Preservation Trust’s other Co-President, concluded the program by thanking the group and ushering them next door to the George F. Baker House for a Bloody Mary Brunch Benefit to support the Decorative Arts Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program. Formerly the private residence of the late Richard H. Jenrette, the beautifully decorated house boasts high ceilings, tall French windows, Classical marble mantels, arched doorways, and an elegant spiral staircase that brings in light from a domed skylight above. 

We plan to post recordings of the lectures on the Trust’s YouTube channel within the next few months. 

Look for information about the January 2021 Emerging Scholars Colloquium in New York in late fall 2020. The Trust also is partnering with the Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island for an Emerging Scholars Colloquium in Newport on Saturday, February 8. The Trust has many other special programs and events scheduled as well. For updates, sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive early pre-registration for events.

A Southern California Excursion: Exploring Pasadena’s Art and Architecture

Decorative Arts Trust members spent November 8 exploring Pasadena’s decorative arts scene as part of the Decorative Arts Trust’s special day-long program in Southern California. 

The Gamble House

The day began at the Gamble House, the iconic American Arts & Crafts site designed in 1908 by the architectural firm of Charles and Henry Greene for Mary and David B. Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company. Planned as a winter dwelling, the Gamble House is often referred to as “America’s Arts & Crafts Masterpiece,” and features an extraordinary percentage of the original furnishings. Participants were thrilled with Gamble House Director Ted Bosely’s in-depth tour. 

Exclusive Tour of a Private Home

After lunch, participants had the unique opportunity to visit the home of a Pasadena-based collector, whose eclectic collection encompassed Art Nouveau furnishings, prints, drawings, and glassware. This special collection was so secret that we are not able to share images of it with the public! 

Overall, Trust members thoroughly enjoyed the sunny and splendid day, and the Trust hopes to offer more tours on the West Coast in the future. 

View more upcoming events on the Trust’s online calendar. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive an early pre-registration benefit. 

Loving the Loire Valley: Notes from the Study Trip Abroad to France

Châteaux, cathedrals, museums, vineyards, and more—the Decorative Arts Trust’s exploration of over 40 sites in the Loire Valley definitely wowed the members who participated in the two sold-out programs.

The Loire is the longest river in France at 633 miles and demonstrates a stunning variability along its course to the Atlantic. The river’s voyage begins in the Vivarais mountains only 85 miles from the Mediterranean and is fed by innumerable tributaries, such as the Indre, Vienne, and Char. The novelist Gustave Flaubert described the “fertile, gentle” territory we will explore on this Study Trip Abroad as “the land of bon petit vin blanc and beautiful old Châteaux, watered by the Loire, the most French of French rivers.” He acknowledged the river’s “sung prose” with “the sort of beauty which caresses without captivating, charms without seducing and, in a word, has more good sense than grandeur, and more wit than poetry: it is France.” For sculptor Auguste Rodin, the Loire, not the Seine or the Rhône, was “the aorta of our France.” 

This Study Trip Abroad in western France featured two tours: one from October 13 to October 22 and one from October 24 to November 2. The first tour commenced in Montbazon and concluded in Nantes, whereas the second started in Nantes and ended in Montbazon. The unique itinerary highlighted less-visited Lower Loire Valley hidden gems and iconic sites, with a special concentration on exclusive private visits that highlight the region’s superlative architecture, collections, gardens, and wine. The Trust also offered an optional extension focusing on Brittany’s Loire Atlantique Region from October 22 to 25, allowing some Tour 1 attendees to extend their travels and some Tour 2 attendees to begin their adventure early. 

In this post, we’ll share insights into three standout sites: the châteaux of Serrant, Villandry, and Chenonceau.

Château de Serrant

Although built over three centuries, the Château de Serrant shows an amazing unity of style. Building began in 1547 on behalf of Charles de Brie to the plans of Philibert Delorme. De Brie found he lacked sufficient funds for the project and sold the property to the Duc de Montbazon with only the north tower completed. Construction resumed in the 1630s under Guillaume de Bautru, a state councilor. He continued the façade of pale white tuffeau and dark russet schist. The massive corner towers topped by cupolas lend an air of dignity, and the central pavilion contains one of the most beautiful Renaissance staircases in the region. Subsequent owners included the Marquis de Vaubrun, who added the west wing. After the Marquis’s death at the Battle of Altenheim in 1675 during the Franco-Dutch War, his widow ordered a memorial sculpture by Antoine Coysevox, which is now in the Chapel. In 1747, the estate was sold to Anthony Walsh, an exiled English shipbuilder in Nantes and friend of the Stewarts. Walsh supplied Prince Charles Edward with a fleet for his ill-fated effort to rally Scotland to his cause. The Château contains a painting that commemorates Bonnie Prince Charlie’s departure for Scotland. In 1830, the house passed by marriage into the hands of the Ducs de Trémoille, whose descendants still own it. The house contains some magnificent furnishings, notably of the Empire period, including a table by Jacob and candelabra by Thomire in the dining room. Serrant also features an important collection of Flemish tapestries and an impressive library. We were shown and incredible 17th-century ebony cabinet. Ordered in 1654 from the celebrated cabinetmaker Pierre Gole as a wedding present, the cabinet is one of a few examples known and the only one remaining in a private collection. The theater-like central reserve is stunning and contains a dozen hidden compartments. The colorful grotto is carved and painted cork.


Villandry is the last of the great Renaissance châteaux in the Loire. It stands on the site of a feudal castle and was built in 1552 by Jean le Breton, Secretary of State to François I. It was bought in 1906 by Dr. Carvalho, founder of “La Demeure Historique,” who transformed the gardens, replacing a 19th-century English landscaped park. It is famous for the formal design of the potager, with beds of ornamental cultivars (and ordinary vegetables) outlined with vine arbours, hedges, clipped yew trees, and fountains. There is also a water garden, herb garden, and labyrinth.


We approached Chenonceau via a grand avenue of plane trees and symmetrical gardens that stretches across the River Cher. The château was built over the course of the 16th century and inhabited by a succession of powerful women, each of whom left a distinctive mark. The square mansion with turreted corners was constructed 1513-17 for Thomas Bohier, Treasury Superintendent under Francois I, but in practice, Bohier’s wife, Catherine Briconnet, took charge and was the creative spirit behind the project. Notable Italian features include the dormers (early examples of the type to be found in all the Loire châteaux, still medieval in form but decorated with dolphins and candelabra in the new Renaissance manner), and the single straight staircase, doubling back on itself, which replaces the usual French spiral. In 1547, Henri II gave Chenonceau to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, who added formal gardens and built a long arched bridge (1556-1559), linking the Château with the south bank of the River Cher. After Henri’s death in 1559, Queen Catherine de Medici claimed the property and added a two-story Italian-style gallery to the bridge (1570-1576). She also expanded the park and constructed numerous outbuildings. In the 18th century, Louise Dupin hosted a literary salon at Chenonceau, attracting famous Enlightenment writers including Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rosseau. In the 1870s, heiress Marguerite Pelouze exhausted her considerable fortune restoring Chenonceau, and, since 1913, it has belonged in the Menier family, esteemed chocolatiers, who have undertaken numerous renovations. The interiors are sumptuously furnished with period tapestries, sculptures, and paintings.

Un Grand Succès!

Albeit a bit cold and wet, the two tours and extension of the Loire Valley trip were great successes.

Study Trips Abroad are designed to engage and enlighten Decorative Arts Trust members, although non-members are welcome to join when they register. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive early registration benefits. Upcoming Study Trips Abroad include Amsterdam in March 2020, Ireland in May 2020, and Italy in October 2020. See the Decorative Arts Trust’s full calendar of events for more information about upcoming programs.

Touring Yale’s Hume Furniture Study Center and the Wurtele Study Center in Connecticut

On Friday, October 4, Decorative Arts Trust members experienced an exceptional collection of colonial and Federal furniture at the new Leslie P. and George H. Hume Yale American Furniture Study Center in Connecticut. The Furniture Study reopened at Yale West Campus after nearly 60 years in downtown New Haven, and it contains over 1,000 examples of wooden objects dating from the 17th through the 21st century. 

Patricia E. Kane, Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale Art Gallery, and John Stuart Gordon, Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts, hosted Trust members as they toured a broad range of displays focused on topics tied to the study of furniture, from joinery and surface to hardware and upholstery. These hands-on installations allow visitors the opportunity to delve into important components of furniture history along with an up-close analysis of Yale’s extraordinary collection.

Trust members were especially pleased to be a part of this tour because the Trust’s Dean F. Failey Grant supported development of these didactics. This annual grant of up to $10,000 supports noteworthy research, exhibition, publication, and object-based conservation projects. The application deadline for the next grant cycle is October 31, 2019. 

The day continued with a visit to the nearby Margaret and Angus Wurtele Study Center, which houses more than 30,000 three-dimensional objects, including Chinese porcelain and ancient Greek vases. John Stuart Gordong pulled two dozen selections from the American decorative art collection, from 18th-century tiles to late-20th-century plates designed by Robert Venturi.

The Trust has many more special programs and events scheduled for 2019, 2020, and 2021. Sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on social media for updates.