Category: Travel

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.

(Fall)ing in Love with the Berkshires: My Symposium Adventures

by Elizabeth Fox

Elizabeth Fox in the Naumkeag dining room
Elizabeth Fox in the Naumkeag dining room

I embraced the majestic fall beauty of the Berkshires during the Decorative Arts Trust’s Fall 2019 Symposium. As a Georgia native who just moved to Massachusetts for my curatorial assistantship with the Worcester Art Museum, I had a limited understanding of New England culture beyond colonial American art and history. Thus, I welcomed the opportunity to experience the diversity of western Massachusetts’s architectural landmarks for the first time. The weekend was jam-packed with tours of historic properties, which ranged from colonial residences (e.g. Mission House); to Shingle Style and “Newporty” mansions (e.g. Naumkeag and the Mount); and to modern Bauhaus-style interiors (e.g. Frelinghuysen-Morris House & Studio). Although very different in appearance and era, each house was in some way influenced by notions of collecting and design of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Additionally, we learned more about American sculpture at Chesterwood and early 20th-century illustration at the Norman Rockwell Museum. During the symposium’s lectures, speakers demonstrated their decorative arts expertise by showcasing groundbreaking projects. For instance, Cindy Brockway, Program Director for Cultural Resources at the Trustees of Reservations, presented the results of a six-year restoration of Naumkeag’s gardens, completed based on the original plans of landscape architect Fletcher Steele. This project served to not only recapture former owner Mabel Choate’s vision of Naumkeag but also to rethink its role as a public site, something that most historic house museums are working to improve. Throughout these presentations, I observed each scholar’s enthusiasm over new discoveries. Christie Jackson, Senior Curator at the Trustees, detailed her extraordinary finds at the Old Manse in Concord, MA, including a ghosting of repeating stripe wallpaper (c. 1860) that was unearthed in the parlor. These discoveries informed her conservation work on the property. During his furniture workshop at Mission House, Brock Jobe, Winterthur’s Emeritus Professor of Decorative Arts, expressed his excitement over a rare 1736 Philadelphia high back chair, which had a slat back with Germanic characteristics. Witnessing the passion and accomplishments of these scholars encouraged me tremendously and impacted my overall experience as a scholarship recipient. Thank you Decorative Arts Trust and its members for helping me further my education in New England decorative arts and allowing me to learn from noted specialists in the field!


Elizabeth Fox, Curatorial Assistant at Worcester Art Museum, was a recipient of a Dewey Lee Curtis Symposium Scholarship. She attended the Decorative Arts Trust’s Fall 2019 Symposium in the Berkshires

A Wondrous Experience: Exploring the Berkshires

by Drew Walton

Drew Walton in Naukeag's Chinese Garden
Drew Walton in Naukeag’s Chinese Garden

The Decorative Arts Trust’s Fall Symposium in the Berkshires was a truly wondrous experience on so many different fronts. On a personal level, this was my first time visiting New England, and my journey to and from Stockbridge, MA, was quite an adventure. I not only expanded my horizons geographically but also intellectually with engaging tours around the various historic houses, museums, and artist studios that we had the privilege of visiting during our long weekend together. The Mount, Mission House, and Naumkeag were fascinating homes to explore while learning about their occupants. However, I found the Hancock Shaker Village to be especially enlightening. In walking amongst the living quarters and workspaces of the Shakers, I glimpsed how this unique sect of people lived their pious lives. Freely roaming around the open-air museum put their material culture into perspective beyond the outside world’s tendency to view their works as decorative arts. My appreciation for the fine arts was further expanded by our visit to Chesterwood. Standing inside Daniel Chester French’s studio was simply breathtaking and awe-inspiring, not only in viewing his sculptures up close but also in reveling in the sheer scale of the projects that were brought in and out of the wooden gates. The Norman Rockwell Museum was also quite the treat to experience. Professionally, it was intriguing to learn about the digital analysis undertaken to restore the wallpapers in one of Naumkeag’s bedrooms. That is exactly the kind of work I aspire to conduct in my career in the digital humanities. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the lovely and varied members that make up the Decorative Arts Trust. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, and I deeply appreciate your kindness. Your generosity made both my internship at the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, VA, and my symposium scholarship possible. It was truly an honor to meet and interact with everyone over the weekend.

Drew Walton, Decorative Arts Trust Digital Humanities Fellow at the William King Museum of Art, was a recipient of a Dewey Lee Curtis Symposium Scholarship. He attended the Decorative Arts Trust’s Fall 2019 Symposium in the Berkshires

Inspired by the Berkshires: Notes from the Fall 2019 Symposium in Western Massachusetts

With the autumn leaves changing colors, members of the Decorative Arts Trust reveled in the cultural history of Western Massachusetts during the Decorative Arts Trust’s Fall Symposium from September 19-22, 2019.

Pre-Symposium Tour and Symposium Kick-Off

The event began with a pre-symposium optional tour of Williamstown, Massachusetts, on Thursday, September 19, with visits to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (the Clark), and the Arrowhead Museum.

The day began with private, behind-the-scenes tours of painting, paper, sculpture, and furniture conservation labs at Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a state-of-the-art facility on the Clark’s campus. At the Clark, Kathleen Morris, Director of Exhibitions and Collections and Curator of Decorative Arts, led a presentation of some of the museum’s decorative arts treasures. She and Alexis Goodin led members through tours of European and American galleries with objects spanning the 14th to the early 20th centuries.

After lunch at the Clark, members continued to Arrowhead Museum in Pittsfield, the former home of author Herman Melville (Moby-Dick, Pierre, The Confidence-Man, Israel Potter). Melville named The Piazza Tales and “I and My Chimney” stories for Arrowhead’s porch and chimney, respectively. Berkshire County Historical Society members guided participants through the house, even showing them where he had the idea for his famous white whale, based on his view of a show-covered Mount Greylock from his study window.

Back at the Red Lion Inn, the Fall Symposium kicked off with opening remarks on Thursday evening, featuring a presentation by Richard Jackson’s on Country Houses of the Berkshires, 1870-1930.



Naumkeag and Mission House

On Friday, September 20, members enjoyed lectures about Mabel Choate Goes Shopping: Furnishing the Mission House, 1928-1930 with Brock Jobe, Professor Emeritus, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture; Polishing the Masterpieces: Garden Conservation as Fine Art with Cindy Brockway, Program Director for Cultural Resources, The Trustees of Reservations; and A Comparison of Two Great American Houses: Naumkeag and the Mount with Pauline Metcalf.

The afternoon featured a tour of Naumkeag House and Gardens, the 1886 Choate family estate, and the Mission House, a mid-1700s house that Mabel Choate restored to a Colonial-era house and museum in the 1930s. Naumkeag stand-outs included the Blue Steps, the Chinese Garden, and Choate’s collection of porcelain dishes displayed on a golden-yellow drapery in her dining room. Brock Jobe shared his expertise of Colonial-era furniture during a furniture study at the Mission House.

The evening concluded with a reception to celebrate Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program, which includes Continuing Education Scholarships, Summer Research Grants, Curatorial Internship Grants, Emerging Scholar Lectures, and Exhibition and Publication Grants. This program is the heart of the Trust’s mission to provide opportunities for scholars to share their passion for the decorative arts, and support is always welcome.


Lenox, Pittsfield, and Stockbridge

Saturday, September 21 began with a tour of Mount Estate and Gardens and the Frelinghuysen-Morris House and Studio in Lenox, followed by visits to the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, the Rockwell Museum, and Chesterwood.

The Mount Estate and Gardens is the former home of Edith Wharton, author of The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. The beauty of the house and its furnishings was as inspiring as the anecdotes about Edith’s wit and cleverness.

The Frelinghuysen-Morris House and Studio was the home and art studio of American abstract artists George L.K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen. The house features their artwork alongside Modern Masters such as Picasso, Braque, Gris, Miro, and Matisse and furniture by Frankl, Deskey, and Aalto. Not only did members have the opportunity to view an exceptional collection of Mid-Century Modern architecture and abstract art, they also were invited to participate in a sketching exercise lead by Frelinghuysen’s nephew.

The weather was perfect for lunch and a stroll around Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield. Now a living-history museum with over 20 buildings and 22,000 artifacts, the village presents rich collections of Shaker furniture, rotating exhibits, and a working farm with extensive gardens and heritage-breed livestock.

Members continued the afternoon at Chesterwood (sculptor Daniel Chester French’s estate) and the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Daniel Chester French is most famous for his monumental statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Chesterwood not only featured a lovely summer home and an inspiring studio, but it also included a gorgeous garden that French designed.

Norman Rockwell—most famous for his Saturday Evening Post magazine covers, illustration for over 40 books, and presidential portraits—is celebrated at the Norman Rockwell Museum and studio. Docents showed members which models he used most often (his neighbors!) and encouraged participants to look deeper into his style and artistry.

Final Day: A Wealth of Learning

On the last day of the Symposium, Sunday, September 22, Matt Thurlow led the Decorative Arts Trust Annual Meeting; Amber Wingerson (Curatorial Assistant at the Cape Ann Museum) presented the John A.H. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecture, “Glass That Decorates”: the History, Designers, and Stained-Glass of the Church Glass and Decorating Company of New York; Christie Jackson (Senior Curator, Trustees of Reservations) shared Curating Color: A Fascinating Journey of Color in Three Conservation Projects; and Mark Wilson (Curator, Trustees of Reservations) spoke on Avoiding the Obvious: Lawrence Bloedel & Collecting Modern. The symposium concluded with Rebecca Migdal giving the Marie Zimmermann Emerging Scholar Lecture on Modern in the Mountains: Mid-Century Design in the Berkshires.

Before departing, members thanked retiring Board of Governors members Helen Scott Reed (after 39 years of service) and Cindy Brockway and congratulated Matt Thurlow on his fifth year as Executive Director of the Trust.

Post-Symposium Tour with Bunny Williams, the Snyders, the Demoses, and the Bidwell House

On September 22, members had the option to continue their Berkshires adventure with visits to the Falls Village Inn; the home, studio, and gardens of Bunny Williams; the private residences of Grace and Elliott Snyder and Virginia and John Demos; and the Bidwell House Museum.

Participants enjoyed lunch at the Falls Village Inn, built in 1834 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Following lunch, renowned decorator Bunny Williams greeted members and showed them her lovely home, studio, and garden in Falls Village. Robert, her master gardener (whom Bunny calls a “plant-whisperer”), shared insights into landscape architecture and design.

Members were delighted to meet Grace and Elliott Snyder of Snyder Antiques. The team deals in a wide variety of 17th- through early-19th-century material and specialize in American vernacular furniture from the 18th century, textiles, and lighting.

Virginia and John Putnam Demos’s c. 1800 country house blends late-Georgian and early Federal style. One of the home’s most remarkable features is the large, original fireplace with hand-painted Delft tiles that dates to 1763. Their collection includes: a c. 1700 six-board chest, a painting by Hudson River School painter Edmund Coates, and a letterbox featuring 18th- and 19th-century documents from the Williams family, the subject of John’s book The Unredeemed Captive.

As the day ended, members savored sunset over the gardens of the Bidwell House Museum. Built in the 1760s, the house is a classic Georgian Saltbox built around a central chimney with two additions: a rear Ell and a Greek Revival carriage barn. Using the inventory of the Rev. Bidwell’s estate, which listed all his possessions at the time of his death, caretakers proceeded to fill the restored house with an appropriate collection, including many objects owned by the Reverend.

Future Symposia and Tours

As we cherish our memories of the Berkshires, we also prepare for the Trust’s upcoming events. The Spring Symposium is scheduled for April 15–19, 2020 in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky. And don’t miss us at the New York Antiques Weekend, January 24-25, 2020. Study Trips Abroad include From Château to Vineyard: The Lower Loire Valley (October 13–22 and October 24–November 2, 2019, extension October 22–25), An Embarrassment of Riches: Tracing the Dutch Golden Age in Amsterdam & Maastricht’s TEFAF (March 8–15, 2020), The Great Houses of Upper Ireland: The North & Border Counties (May 5–13 and May 14–22, 2020), and La Dolce Vita in Northern Italy: Genoa, Turin & Milan (October 5–20 & October 19–28, 2020, extension October 15–18).

Sign up for our email list or visit our events page for updates on upcoming trips to New Bern, East Anglia, China, and more. Ambassador-level members get pre-registration benefits!

Note: Dates and locations subject to change.