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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.