Castle Howard: The Majesty of the Country Home

© Mike Kipling

Photo © Mike Kipling

Our second evening lecture this spring highlights another grand country house and estate.

As far as country homes go, Castle Howard is one of the most grand. Located in North Yorkshire, England, Castle Howard, though not an actual castle, was constructed after the castle-building era, circa 1500. Built between 1699 and 1712 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, Charles Howard, the home has belonged to the Howard family for 300 years.

Named “one of the world’s top ten greatest mansions and grand houses” by Lonely Planet travel guide, Castle Howard became known to millions as the backdrop in the 1981 television miniseries Brideshead Revisted.

At 1,000 acres, Winterthur is only a fraction of the size of the Castle Howard estate, which sits in the Howardian Hills at 10,000 acres. But both landscapes are equally breathtaking. Rich in family history, like Winterthur, Castle Howard was cared for by many generations of the same family. While the du Ponts no longer reside at Winterthur, Castle Howard is still the residence of the great grandson of the 9th Earl of Carlisle, the Honorable Simon Howard and his family.

Turquoise Drawing Room, © Ryan Browne

Turquoise Drawing Room. Photo © Ryan Browne

The two estates were opened to the public within a year of the other. Henry Francis du Pont opened his ancestral home Winterthur in 1951. George Howard, Baron Howard of Henderskelfe, opened Castle Howard to public visitation in 1952. Howard, like du Pont, was instrumental in revitalizing and restoring his ancestral home, especially after a large portion of the house was destroyed by fire in November 1940.

Another similarity of the two country homes is that they each featured their own railway station. Winterthur’s train station, built in the mid 1890s by Henry Algernon du Pont, had numerous freight trains and three passenger trains that traveled across the property each day. When H. F. wanted to enjoy the Winterthur bounty at each of his many homes—Southampton; New York City; Boca Grande, Florida—he would receive weekly shipments of milk and farm produce. Castle Howard’s railway served the travelling needs of the general public, the nobility, and even royalty from 1845 to the 1950s. In addition to the transportation of people, the railway also moved produce from the estate and surrounding farms.

Castle Howard with Atlas Fountain. Photo © Mike Kipling

Castle Howard with Atlas Fountain. Photo © Mike Kipling

Respectively, each estate contains world-renowned collections. Winterthur’s 175 rooms display du Pont’s abundant collection of American decorative arts and architecture. Castle Howard’s 145 rooms exhibit a noteworthy collection ranging from frescos and furniture to paintings and porcelain. Both estates also have magnificent gardens and grounds for visitors to explore each day, featuring magnificent collections of daffodils and rhododendron to name a few.

This Friday, April 11, Winterthur welcomes the current resident of Castle Howard, the Hon. Simon Howard. Howard grew up in the house and lives there today with his wife and two children among the 220,000 visitors the estate receives yearly. Howard will take the audience on a personal visual tour of the house and landscape, sharing insights on modern living at Castle Howard and on the ongoing preservation and restoration projects that ensure its future. For more information on the lecture “Castle Howard: Family Home and Restoration Drama,” please visit http://www.winterthur.org/?p=950.

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communications Department

Posted in Architecture, Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Visions of Grandeur: Winterthur Transformed

Winterthur, 1839. Courtesy, Hagley Museum

Winterthur, 1839. Courtesy, Eleutherian Mills Historical Library

Winterthur, the childhood home of Henry Francis du Pont, has undergone many transformations in its rich history. The original 12-room, 3-story Greek revival mansion, built in 1839 by Jacques Antoine Bidermann and his wife Evelina du Pont, was only a fraction of what Winterthur would become. In 1902, du Pont’s father, Colonel Henry Algernon du Pont added a new façade and library wing to the existing structure.  The house would become the Winterthur visitors know today only after Henry Francis inherited the estate in 1927. In May 1928, du Pont drafted architect Albert Ely Ives on a month-to-month retainer to prepare plans for an addition to the house that would more than double its size.

Albert Ely Ives, west elevation of the wing, ca. 1929

Albert Ely Ives, west elevation of the wing, ca. 1929

Always actively involved in every aspect of the estate, du Pont closely oversaw the transformation from design to construction, even building his own construction shed on the site, where with his own set of plans, he would monitor the daily progress. While summering in Southampton during the initial design stage, du Pont stayed in constant contact with Ives, writing long, detailed letters suggesting potential problems for the architect to review.

North side of the house, August 1929

North side of the house, August 1929

In an eight-page letter dated September 18, 1928, du Pont questioned issues as how air would get into the attic, how the elevator mechanic would get to the machinery for repairs, why gutters were not shown on the design, even where the butler would put his ginger ale bottles. Winterthur was always du Pont’s pride, and he immersed himself deeply in the project to ensure every aspect was thoroughly thought out.

During the expansion of the house, for example, du Pont wanted to create a space large enough to accommodate an entire set of Chinese wallpaper he had acquired. In order to feature all of the paper, the wall between two older rooms was removed, and the Chinese Parlor was created. The room combined the house’s 1902 wing with the new wing completed in 1931. It seems almost poetic that in 1928 du Pont wrote to Ives, “I think the Chinese wallpaper will make a very good break between the old and the new house.”

Chinese Parlor and detail. Room photo by Gavin Ashworth

Chinese Parlor and detail. Room photo by Gavin Ashworth

Du Pont’s vision to turn Winterthur into a world-renowned museum to display his collection of American decorative arts became a reality in his lifetime. Still in contact with Ives, du Pont wrote of his accomplishment in a December 28, 1951, letter:

I still live at Winterthur and my house is called that. The old house is now The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, and I am happy to say I don’t miss it a bit. It is right there beside me and I naturally can wander around it at will and still get things for it. I have all the fun without the work. Showing people around was getting to be quite exhausting and I am delighted that I have actually seen it finished.

East Terrace, 2014

East Terrace, 2014

This year Winterthur began another transformation inside and out! Renovations have been completed in phase one inside the house. Tinted glass or Plexiglas® was installed in the windows to filter damaging UV and visible light. This is an important and practical measure as light exposure can be damaging to collection pieces causing objects to fade, yellow, and become brittle. The former gray-tinted glass was replaced with a new bronze-colored glass that brings a warm, welcome glow to the house, restoring Winterthur to du Pont’s goal of maintaining the atmosphere of a gentleman’s private residence. Another advantage to the Plexiglas® is that the historic window frames are now visible from the exterior of the building. Before, the exterior windows appeared like black holes. The new windows create a more inviting outer appearance.

Courtesy, R G Architects

Courtesy, R G Architects

On the outside, workers this week began encasing the house in ground-to-roofline scaffolding. The museum’s 410 windows, 15 doors, and approximately 800 shutters will be replaced to restore the iconic exterior of du Pont’s exquisite former home to architect Ives’s original 1930s vision.

photo 2

North side of the house, April 2014

The exterior phase of the house renovation is scheduled to last until December 2014. Many facets of the exterior windows will be replaced including the deteriorating shutters. The wooden shutters will be changed to a composite material composed of fiberglass. Every effort was made to preserve the wooden window sashes and frames, a compromise to maintain the historical integrity of the house—though Winterthur’s mission is not that of an historic house but rather the preservation of the historic architecture contained within the home’s collection.

Only three of the existing shutters are original to the home; the conservation department will preserve these shutters as they contain important historical information on paint color. The failing window frames will be repaired and restored from a pinkish paint to their original color, now known as Hazy Skies.

Also part of the ongoing renovation, gutters, downspouts, and some chimneys will be fixed. And the maintenance and sealing of adjacent woodwork will end the intrusion of cold drafts, humid air, and damaging insects.

For ongoing updates on the progress of the house renovation, please visit renovation.winterthur.org.

Blog post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communications Department

Posted in Architecture, Behind-the-Scenes, Conservation, House | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


A Woman’s Touch (and Creativity and Intelligence) Makes All the Difference

In honor of March’s celebration of Women’s History Month, it seems fitting to admire the many women who have made contributions in one way or another to Winterthur.

Reflecting Pool Staircase. Photo: Stromberg-Gunther

Reflecting Pool Staircase. Photo: Stromberg-Gunther

Marian Cruger Coffin (1876–1957) was one of the first American women landscape architects and a lifelong friend of Henry Francis du Pont. When H. F. was studying horticulture at Harvard’s Bussey Institution, he reconnected with Coffin, who was pursuing a degree in landscape architecture as a special student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the only professional program opened to women at the time. After inheriting the estate, in 1929, du Pont planned an expansion of the house; at this time he commissioned Coffin to design the formal garden. Coffin, drawing inspiration from the great gardens of the Italian Renaissance with axial symmetry, classical proportions, and refined architectural features, created this formal garden that has been called a serene oasis. The triumph of the project was the grand staircase leading down to the swimming pool, which is now the Reflecting Pool.

Sundial Garden, Winterthur. Photo: Ruth Joyce

Sundial Garden, Winterthur. Photo: Ruth Joyce

In addition to the formal garden at Winterthur, Coffin designed the Glade Garden adjacent to the Reflecting Pool. This area with naturalistic pools and waterfalls is a shady summer refuge. Her most prominent project at Winterthur is notably the Sundial Garden, which du Pont asked her to help design in 1955. In the interest of making an April garden as appealing as the azaleas in May, du Pont wanted the garden to be “all pink and white.” The style for the Sundial Garden was known as a “room garden.” Coffin’s plan featured fragrant shrubs including magnolias, cherries, quince, crab apples, viburnums, spireas, fothergillas, lilacs, pearlbushes, and roses arranged in concentric circles around an antique armillary sundial. This garden created expressly for the public, was a room made of flowers, hence the term “room garden.”

Layout of the Grounds, Marian Coffin. Winterthur Archives

Layout of the Grounds, Marian Coffin. Winterthur Archives, Winterthur Library

While their approaches were different—du Pont leaned more to a natural landscape inspired by the writings of William Robinson while Coffin’s approach was more formal—together they would create the beautiful garden that visitors still explore today. Coffin’s papers, architectural plans, and photographs of her many gardens, not just Winterthur, are preserved in the Winterthur Archives, such as this 1933 letter.

May 4, 1933. Letter from MCC, “My dear Harry, Every moment spent at Winterthur was a pleasure as always, but this spring to see so much beauty was balm to the spirit…You have been such an extraordinarily understanding client and have given me such a marvelous [sic] opportunity to help in creating the new development of the grounds that I can never be grateful enough, so at this time when we are all economizing please accept the suggestions I made as love-taps to Winterthur…My love to you all, As always, Marian Coffin” (She may have meant love pats as she was a rather careless typist.) 

Marian Coffin stands out as one of the most influential women to contribute to the aesthetic of Winterthur, but the contributions by women certainly do not stop at the garden. The outstanding collection has many pieces made by women. Here are a few examples.

Sampler by Sophie Bailly, 1828, Michigan. Museum purchase with fund provided by Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle, 2010.30a

Sampler by Sophie Bailly, 1828, Michigan. Museum purchase with fund provided by Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle, 2010.30a

This sampler was made by Sophie Bailly (1807–92). The daughter of Joseph Bailly, a successful French fur trader, and Angelique McGulphin, a French/Native American woman who was known as Bead-Way-Way, Sophie was 21 years old when she worked on this sampler. She was most likely a teacher and not a student as her earlier education on Mackinac Island enabled her to support herself before marriage. This chamber table made by Rachel H. Lombard in 1816 can be found displayed in the Portsmouth Room in the house. The rectangular table with rounded corners is ornamented with flowering vines, anagrams of names, and the signature and date “Rachel H. Lombard./ Bath, January, 1816.” Bath most likely denotes that Lombard was enrolled in the Bath Female Academy where furniture embellishment was taught.

Chamber table by Rachel H. Lombard, 1816, New England. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont, 1957.0985

Chamber table by Rachel H. Lombard, 1816, New England. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont, 1957.0985

Women have made exquisite contributions to Winterthur from the artful and elegant garden to the many women-made objects in the collection. For more insight into the contributions of women at Winterthur, please join us for the May 13 My Favorite Things Tour: Behind the Scenes with Winterthur Curators, “Remember the Ladies,” which emphasizes historic objects used and created by women. Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communications Department

Posted in Architecture, Behind-the-Scenes, Decorative Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Philadelphia Furniture Takes Center Stage

Solid joinery and turning, elaborate rococo carving, and handsome woods are hallmarks of the finest early American furniture from Philadelphia. In collaboration with the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Winterthur’s annual Sewell C. Biggs Furniture Forum, held March 5 through 8, focused on Philadelphia’s 18th- and 19th-century furniture and material culture. Below are a few highlights from the sold-out conference—which included more than 300 attendees, including 13 scholarship recipients; 23 presentations by senior and young scholars, dealers, and collectors; and behind-the-scenes tours of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Winterthur, and Philadelphia historic houses Stenton and Mount Pleasant.

One specifically interesting lecture from the many presentations was from Laura Keim, Curator, Stenton and Historic Germantown, who presented new work of the iconic Blue Book of Philadelphia furniture, which put into perspective what collectors can trust from the publication and what warrants more scrutiny.

Conference attendees were also very interested in the presentation by Alexandra Kirtley and Peggy Olley, whose lecture “A New Radiance: The Latrobe/Bridport Furniture Revealed” offered insight into the furniture of Latrobe and Bridport from the perspective of both curator and conservator.

The conference speakers emphasized that while experts know quite a bit about certain aspects of Philadelphia furniture and its makers, there is much left to discover. Along the same theme of new exploration, there was an emphasis by many conference speakers on the influence of German and other non-English makers and users of furniture in Philadelphia. Speakers discussed the diversity of Philadelphia furniture and the importance of studying influences from the Irish, Scots, German, French, and other furnituremaking traditions.

Winterthur is the perfect location for a conference on Philadelphia furniture. The collection of Philadelphia furniture featured in Winterthur’s In Wood gallery is quite impressive, spanning more than a century, from 1700 to 1835 including:

Pembroke table, Adam Hains, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1790–95. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont, 1957.669.

Pembroke table, Adam Hains, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1790–95. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont, 1957.669.

High Chest, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1755–75. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont, 1957.506.

High Chest, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1755–75. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont, 1957.506.

Miriam and Michael Gratz owned the high chest above. Married in Philadelphia in 1769, their marriage merged two prominent Jewish families that had extensive trading connections. The couple acquired some of the grandest furniture carved in the Philadelphia style of the 1760s. Popularly called a highboy, the handsome mahogany chest of drawers is usually displayed in the Port Royal Parlor at Winterthur.

Port Royal Parlor. Photo: Gavin Ashworth

Port Royal Parlor. Photo: Gavin Ashworth

While du Pont enjoyed collecting decorative arts, he also assembled a significant collection of architectural details. Port Royal Parlor is one such architectural interior that du Pont acquired from Philadelphia and had reassembled at Winterthur. Port Royal was the country home of Edward Stiles, built in 1762, on Frankford Creek, north of Philadelphia. Stiles, a planter and merchant from Port Royal, Bermuda, had prospered in the West Indies trade. The woodwork in the Port Royal Parlor at Winterthur is original to the house in Philadelphia.

Blackwell Parlor. Photo: Gavin Ashworth

Blackwell Parlor. Photo: Gavin Ashworth

The architecture in Blackwell Parlor likewise was original to another Philadelphia house at 224 Pine Street. The richly carved doorways showcased in Blackwell Parlor are an outstanding example of 18th-century American architecture.

Philadelphia was a thriving city during the 18th century. The number of immigrants from Europe rose quickly in the mid- 1700s. As a result, the need for household goods and the craftsman to make these goods intensified.  Later in the 1790s, the city flourished as the new capital of the United States. Even George Washington called Philadelphia home.

As the 2104 Furniture Forum made clear, from its colonial beginnings and through the Industrial Age, Philadelphia remained a central hub for the production of fine furniture and carving in America.

Mark your calendars for the 2015 Sewell C. Biggs Furniture Forum on March 3–7. For more information, visit winterthur.org/furnitureforum.

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communication Department, in collaboration with Greg Landrey, director of Library, Collection Management and Academic Programs, and Catharine Dann Roeber, Elizabeth and Robert Owens Curatorial Fellow.

Posted in Conferences, Decorative Arts, Furniture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


I Spy With My Little Eye, Snowdrops Starting to Bloom

“When I reached home it seemed almost like spring, and the grass a little green here and there. As soon as I came in the house and saw everything was right I went at once to the garden. On the way I saw two snowdrops and yellow crocuses and in the garden more snowdrops and scillas.”

– Pauline Foster du Pont

It has become tradition at Winterthur to walk the garden and spot the first signs of bloom in the naturalistic garden, the March Bank. In fact, it was one of the favorite past times of Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont, who would bring his daughters Ruth and Pauline outside to participate in the hunt.

SnowdropsFirst to bloom are the snowdrops. Last week, Garden Director Chris Strand observed hundreds of snowdrops. The snowdrop bulbs create a green-and-white color scheme against the fallen leaves or, more likely this year, the snow. More importantly, the blooming of March Bank signals warmer temperatures and announces spring is right around the corner. After the winter we’ve had here at Winterthur, the blooms are definitely a welcome sight.

It is quite magnificent to see March Bank transform from the sheets of green and white, as it is covered in snowdrops, to yellow, as the Amur Adonis and winter aconites begin to bloom. Strand spotted a few winter aconites and tommies pushing through last week as he walked the garden. From year to year, it’s difficult to predict exactly when the different phases of the March Bank will occur, but the most spectacular phase is the end when the bank turns a bright, electric blue as the glory-of-the-snow come into full bloom.

MattPortrait_SmThis Saturday, March 8, Winterthur welcomes famous plantsman and author Matt Bishop to the annual Bank to Bend event. Bishop, an English snowdrop enthusiast and author of Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus, will lecture at 11:00 am in Copeland Lecture Hall. A little fact about Bishop’s book: it has become the bible for any serious collector of snowdrops; now out of print, a copy will set you back $250 or more—if you can find one. Bishop’s lecture should not be missed on Saturday!

Winterthur is pleased to have Carolyn’s Shade Gardens and Black Hog Horticulture onsite at Bank to Bend selling snowdrops and other winter interest plants. Black Hog Horticulture is owned by Winterthur’s former curator of horticulture, John Feliciani, and his wife Helen Waite. Feliciani, who retired in 2010, was the fourth generation of his family to work at Winterthur. His father, Albert, was the former supervisor of the cut-flower garden for 43 years, and before him Feliciani’s grandfather oversaw the cutting garden for 40 years.

Photo by Ray Magnani

Photo by Ray Magnani

In addition, internationally known artist Adrian Martinez will display selections of his botanical art inspired by the winter garden of noted horticulurist and former Winterthur guest speaker David Culp. Martinez’s work combines a rigorously classical technique with an intensely emotional vision. The selection of oil paintings on display will be available for purchase in the Winterthur Bookstore.

Don’t miss your opportunity to tour the March Bank during Bank to Bend beginning at 1:00 pm. You can start your own hunt to find the blooming bulbs of the March Bank. With any luck, the warm weather predicted this weekend will put all of these tough little garden treasures back on track.

For more information and registration, please call 800.448.3883. Space available.

Visit our garden blog to find out what’s in bloom!

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communication Department

Posted in Conferences, Du Pont Family, Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


The Sun Is Rising Over Costumes of Downton Abbey

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. The sun has just set on the fourth season of Downton Abbey® (the finale aired last weekend), and this weekend on March 1, the widely anticipated exhibition Costumes of Downton Abbey will open here in the Galleries at Winterthur. Co-curators Jeff Groff, Maggie Lidz, and Chris Strand invite you to celebrate the costumes seen on the world-acclaimed fictional series and compare the British lifestyle on the show with real-life on the American Winterthur estate.

photo

I recently popped into the exhibition for a sneak peek as the final touches are being tended to before tomorrow’s opening. As you enter the Galleries, the right wall outlines 20 characters seen upstairs and downstairs on Downton Abbey, along with a guideline of the character’s costumes on display. The exhibition is divided into three main themes, each focusing on the time of day the costumes were worn—early morning, daytime, and evening. Dialogue from the series is seen throughout the exhibition, along with video and stills to help tell the story of the Crawley family and their servants. To whet your appetite, I’ll give you a taste of the costumes worn in the morning and the customs that occur on the estate at that time.

As the exhibition moves through a typical day for both upstairs and downstairs, the costumes from the morning are really dedicated to the downstairs characters. The first costumes displayed are from housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, head housemaid Anna, and footman Thomas. These early morning uniforms, such as Anna’s morning dress, designed in the style of 1912, are the downstairs character’s less formal attire. The roles of each of these characters are outlined, and dialogue appears to help position the costumes within the fictional show. As Anna is awakened she muses, “Just once in my life, I’d like to sleep until I woke up natural.”

Downton Promo shot

The first British and American comparison observed in the exhibition is the difference in manners between British and American servants. In Great Britain, proper manners were instilled in family members. There was no need for books on etiquette or on training and managing staff; servants were trained by servants, and skills passed from generation to generation. Americans, however, needed books such as Emily Post’s or publications such as Vogue to guide etiquette.

“Servant is a word I am unable to use. I can’t imagine my father using it.” – Ruth du Pont Lord, daughter of H. F. du Pont (June 27, 2013)

In the United States, the word servant was considered unacceptable. H. F. du Pont preferred the use of terms “help” or “staff.” Another difference between Winterthur and a similar house in Great Britain was the variety of nationalities, religions, and races among employees here. Staff at Winterthur was organized traditionally; Winterthur founder, Henry Francis du Pont oversaw the men, and his wife Ruth Wales du Pont the women.

There are also opportunities throughout the exhibition to see objects from the Winterthur collection that were used during the du Ponts’ residence at Winterthur. Breakfast cards and the electric bell system by Edward’s & Company of Norwalk, Connecticut, are some  such collection pieces displayed within the morning section of the exhibition. The bell system illustrates how wealthy Americans were more interested than the British in new technology and installing the latest labor-saving devices in their homes .

Costumes of Downton Abbey has a little something for everyone. For fans of the series Downton Abbey, this exhibition is an exciting chance to see the forty costumes worn by the beloved characters up close. It is also a chance to see how costumes designed for television vary from everyday life to make fabrics and textures translate on screen. Say co-curator Maggie Lidz, “Our hope with this exhibition is that we can offer visitors a way to further enjoy one of their favorite television shows.” Even visitors who are not avid fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy the beauty of the costumes and the fascinating comparisons between the fictional Downton Abbey and Winterthur. Don’t miss the next installment, which details the costumes worn during daytime by the upstairs and downstairs characters on Downton Abbey.

Costumes of Downton Abbey opens March 1 in the Winterthur Galleries. For more information, please visit winterthur.org/downtonabbey.

 

Layout 1

 

 

 

 

Blog contributed by Hilary Seitz, Marketing Communications Department.

Posted in Exhibitions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


The du Ponts of Winterthur

Winterthur Museum seems impossible to imagine as a home. How could the vast structure—all nine stories of it—have housed a small family of four? The sheen of quality in the museum collections, polished by curators for decades, blocks any sense of one individual’s creation. But quietly interspersed among the 175 rooms of American treasures are some curious things: 18th-century French wedding rings; du Pont family portraits of varying quality; and late-Victorian silver not quite “up to standards.” In the research library at Winterthur, rare books of serious scholarship share storage space with bulging boxes of recipes, birthday cards, receipts for dog food, and various papers documenting the pleasures, grief, and tedium of everyday life. These relics shine a sliver of light into the lives of the du Pont family that called Winterthur home from 1839 to 1969.

In the upcoming book The du Ponts of Winterthur, author and Winterthur Estate Historian and Garden Objects Curator Maggie Lidz traces the fascinating story of the estate and its occupants through pages and pages of family photos, memorabilia, and personal remembrances. Henry Francis du Pont, the last private owner of the Winterthur estate and founder of the museum, said he collected to preserve “evidences of early life in America.” In a similar way, this book contains mementos from the life of one family. Featured are a number of intimate family objects never published before.

Book Detail ReshootLes amusements de l’amour (The Amusements of Love) was a gift from Pierre Samuel du Pont to Nicole Charlotte Marie Louise le Dée. In this handwritten book about their love affair, the left side of the book on the opening page is his portrait, and the right side of the last page of the book is a mirror. The couple was married January 26, 1766. Passed down from generation to generation, the book is now in the Winterthur Museum collection. 1961.1246.

Another item featured in the book is a sticker of children riding in a chauffeur-driven car from Ruth Ellen du Pont’s childhood scrapbook.

chauffeur rh ap6 (4)

Also featured in The du Ponts of Winterthur is the group of 18th-century French wedding rings from the early generations of the family: wedding rings of P. S. and Nicole le Dée du Pont and the wedding rings of their son, Eleuthère Irénée and his wife, Sophie Madeline du Pont, who were married November 26, 1791. sophei madeline & ei dp rings 65_525The note accompanying the rings is from the couple’s youngest daughter, also named Sophie Madeline du Pont: “Ma’s wedding ring given me by Sister Victorine.”

Available for purchase March 2014, The du Ponts of Winterthur is written by Maggie Lidz, edited by Onie Rollins, and designed by Suzanne Gaadt (cover design by Gayle Croes Bezerra).

Purchases made at the Winterthur Bookstore benefit the museum. Visit the Bookstore, order online at winterthurstore.com, or call 800.448.3883, ext. 4741. Members receive a 10% discount.

 

Post by Winterthur Estate Historian and Garden Objects Curator Maggie Lidz.

Posted in Du Pont Family, House, Life at Winterthur | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


The Ephemera of Love

Valentine’s Day – a day celebrating love, a thriving industry with billions of dollars spent on cards, flowers, jewelry, candy, dinners, and getaways, with murky origins in the third century execution of a Roman priest. The history of this custom is somewhat confusing to trace with three possible saints named St. Valentine and even more associated legends. One story has St. Valentine helping persecuted Christians by illegally marrying couples in secret; another tells the tale of when imprisoned and sentenced to death for these crimes, he signed his farewell note to his jailer’s daughter, whose sight he restored, “From your Valentine.” Nearly two centuries later in 469 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s feast day.

The first known written association of St. Valentine with romance appears in Chaucer’s verses in the late 14th century, and the practice continued. Shakespeare’s Ophelia met Hamlet on St. Valentine’s Day, prompting her to think she had found her true love and sing “And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.”  References are found not only in literature but also in the poetry of Charles, Duke of Orleans, written when imprisoned in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and in the 17th-century diaries of Samuel Pepys, who recorded his special celebrations. By the 18th century, sending gifts, love letters, and handmade tokens to loved ones became a popular custom.

Cupid operates the steam pump in this fold-out mechanical valentine. John and Carolyn Grossman Collection, Winterthur Library.

Cupid operates the steam pump in this fold-out mechanical valentine. John and Carolyn Grossman Collection, Winterthur Library.

With later advances in papermaking and printing, mass-produced Valentine cards were manufactured starting in the 1840s and grew into a flourishing business for printers and stationers who increasingly offered an overwhelming diversity of items as decades passed. Beautifully designed greeting cards were also embossed, fringed, and made from a variety of materials and showcased images of cupids, adorable children, flowers, and loving couples. Novelty cards, even more elaborate creations, were advertised starting in the 1880s. Cards shaped into fans, hearts, diamonds, shields, musical instruments, horseshoes, and more were often decorated with fabric. Easels attached to the reverse of cards for semi-permanent display were “suitable for the parlor or boudoir.”  Art-drop valentines featured several pieces joined by ribbons. Mechanical cards of different types were trendy; some pulled open with a string to reveal verses while others folded out to show multidimensional scenes made from several layers of paper and material.

“A Token of Love” valentine card in the shape of a fan. John and Carolyn Grossman Collection, Winterthur Library.

“A Token of Love” valentine card in the shape of a fan. John and Carolyn Grossman Collection, Winterthur Library.

After World War I, card manufacturers switched to simpler ones, but the tradition of sending cards continues with approximately one billion valentines sold today, second only to Christmas cards. Compared to these novelty cards from more than 100 years ago, our choices are somewhat tame. By nature transitory and made from cheap paper that has now become brittle, it’s astounding that numerous valentines have been carefully archived in the library’s Grossman Collection. Enjoy these examples of novelty cards and remember to acknowledge your loved ones.

Art-drop valentine inscribed on reverse “To George From Hildegarde.” John and Carolyn Grossman Collection, Winterthur Library.

Art-drop valentine inscribed on reverse “To George From Hildegarde.” John and Carolyn Grossman Collection, Winterthur Library.

Post by Jeanne Solensky, librarian of the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

The John and Carolyn Grossman Collection is a world-class collection of some 250,000 items that visually documents life in America from 1820 to 1920.

Posted in Ephemera, Library | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Fashion as Art

Gazette de Bon Genre, March 1920. Winterthur Archives.

Gazette de Bon Ton, March 1920. Winterthur Archives.

Our forthcoming original exhibition Costumes of Downton Abbey, opening March 1, gives Winterthur a unique opportunity to shine a light on the library’s collection of 20th century magazines, including the rare La Gazette du Bon Ton. Founded in Paris in 1912, the avant-garde fashion magazine has been used by designers as inspiration since it was published. The magazine was discontinued during World War I, and when it was revived in 1920, the New York edition was rechristened Gazette du Bon Genre. Both titles roughly translate as “Journal of Good Taste.” The magazine aimed to establish fashion as an art alongside painting, sculpture, and drawing. Each issue centered around ten full-page fashion illustrations produced by notable artists and illustrators depicting the models in various dramatic and narrative situations.

Gazette de bon Genre, April 1920. Winterthur Archives.

Gazette du bon Genre, April 1920. Winterthur Archives.

According to the magazine’s first editorial, “The clothing of a woman is a pleasure for the eye that cannot be judged inferior to the other arts.”

Much like the readers of La Gazette du Bon Ton, viewers of the highly acclaimed series Downton Abbey® are offered glimpses of upper class life, manners, social environments, and leisure pursuits of the time.

The 1920s costumes worn on Downton Abbey for the wedding of Lady Edith Crawley fit into the newly stylish lines and colors of the immediate post-war period, shown in the pages of the magazine.

Downton Abbey®. Photograph © Nick Briggs, Carnival Film & Television Limited, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Downton Abbey®. Photograph © Nick Briggs, Carnival Film & Television Limited, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Caroline McCall, the Downton Abbey costume designer who created character Edith’s dress, noted,

“Edith’s wedding dress started with a period train, a fragment, and the dress was built around it. It was important that Edith look very beautiful in the dress and that her groom abandons her from love—a realization that she is just too young and beautiful—not out of pity. The dress had to be able to survive a lot of action . . . running up the stairs, and throwing herself on the bed.”

The dress worn to that ill-fated wedding by character Lady Mary Crawley was also fashioned in the style of 1920. McCall noted, “We started off with a cream dress, dyed it blue, and then added the sleeves and a sash.”

The Downton Abbey costume designers have only seven weeks to design all the costumes for the season. They produce dramatic results very quickly by relying on pieces of original designs that they then refabricate. Many of the costumes, including the dresses worn by the three sisters at Edith’s wedding, are fashioned with bits of vintage fabric and ornament.

Visitors to Costumes of Downton Abbey will experience the world of Downton Abbey through 40 historically inspired costumes on lend from Cosprop, the world’s leading costumier to film, television, and theater, as well as from Carnival Film and Television. The costumes will be displayed and supplemented by photographs and vignettes inspired by the fictional program and by real life at Winterthur.

Pages from Gazette de Bon Genre, 1920. Winterthur Archives.

Pages from Gazette du Bon Genre, 1920. Winterthur Archives.

 

For more information, please visit winterthur.org/downtonabbey.

The exhibition at Winterthur is presented by

Layout 1

With support from the Glenmede Trust Company

Downton® and Downton Abbey®. A Carnival Films/Masterpiece Co-Production.

Posted in Behind-the-Scenes, Ephemera, Exhibitions, Library | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Costumes of Downton Abbey at Winterthur: In the Making

Like millions of people around the world, Dave Roselle is a big Downton Abbey® fan. Unlike anyone else, Dave is director of Winterthur. In the fall of 2012, he asked Tom Savage, director of  Museum Affairs, if it would be possible to have an exhibit of the costumes that were appearing weekly on the show that so fascinated him. After the briefest of pauses, Tom recollected that his dear friend Lady Clifford of Chudleigh was also a very close friend with Julian Fellowes, the producer and creator of the wildly popular British period drama Downton Abbey. In a whirlwind few months, phone calls were made, cups were raised, and contracts were signed. Tom formed his exhibition team, and Dave’s idea took shape. Beginning March 1, Costumes of Downton Abbey will be on view at Winterthur, featuring 40 costumes from the television show supplemented by video clips, photographs and vignettes inspired by the fictional program and by real life at Winterthur.

6The costume designers for Downton Abbey rely on Cosprop, a British costume supply house already well-known to the Winterthur staff.  This company, founded in 1965 by John Bright, specializes in original and reproduction period clothes that they rent out to film, stage, and television production companies.  In 2006, Winterthur exhibited Fashion in Film, which consisted of original costumes from Cosprop made for such films as Titanic, Ever After, Elizabeth, Sense & Sensibility, Dangerous Liaisons, and more. Among all the shows that have appeared at Winterthur, Fashion in Film ranks number one in attendance. Besides being a fan of Downton Abbey and the director of Winterthur, Dave is a mathematician. He never ignores important numbers.

As part of the exhibition team, I flew to London to choose  the costumes. This was not a simple task.  Cosprop is huge, with a staff of about 100 and a collection of hundreds of thousands of costumes. For two full days, Cosprop staffer Christine McSweeney and her assistant Judith Bright helped hunt down the outfits destined for Winterthur.

4 sybils harem outfit cosprop july 2013 (3)Most of what we wanted was found within the first hour. The women’s evening dresses—Sybil’s blue harem pants, Mary’s deep red engagement gown, Violet’s purple ensembles—were instantly recognizable. The men’s clothes were more difficult. For instance, the “wrong” tweeds worn by Richard Carlisle, (a plot twist in Season 2) had been returned to the rental racks. It took a lot of time and assistance to find the exact pieces required.

The hardest costume of all to track down was that worn by Daisy, the kitchen maid.  In hindsight, this is not surprising. As Winterthur textile curator Linda Eaton notes, everyone in the future will think 21st-century Americans wore white satin gowns all the time because wedding dresses get saved more than any other type of clothing. The rarest pieces are those worn every day, because they get worn out and thrown away.  The humble is rarely preserved. So it was at Cosprop. We examined every single droopy frock in a very long aisle of basic garb (for servants/poor/crowd). While dry cleaner bags protected many of the other clothes, and the most iconic outfits were draped onto mannequins, this sad attire was squashed together. Dust and creases only added to their verisimilitude. One dolorous costume after another was examined until, finally, the deep grey dress with its washed-out black plaid collar, worn by the actor Sophie McShera as the character of Daisy, was located.

8 Cosprop general 15 with MaggieWe were not finished yet as the most elusive bit, Daisy’s thin cotton apron, remained to be found. Cosprop’ s large collection of aprons loomed insurmountably ahead of us. How could we even identify it? The thick walls of the warehouse blocked the service of our cell phones and iPads, so it was over to Christine’s desktop computer to search for more images online, hoping they might help. Blown-up pictures of Daisy revealed that the apron worn with the grey dress had some sort of barely discernible pattern on it. This gave us courage as we ransacked box after box. I had never been conscious before of the range available: patterned/un-patterned/bib/no bibs, as well as large, small, tiny, huge, etc.  Finally we “‘struck gold.”  We found the badly faded, worn-to-a-tatter apron. No small task indeed. In retrospect, though, our joy at that moment seems a little extreme!

For more information, please visit winterthur.org/downtonabbey.

The exhibition at Winterthur is presented by

Layout 1

 

With support from the Glenmede Trust Company

Downton® and Downton Abbey®. A Carnival Films/Masterpiece Co-Production.

Post by Winterthur Estate Historian and Garden Objects Curator Maggie Lidz. Maggie is co-curator of Costumes of Downton Abbey.

All photos taken at Cosprop Ltd., London, contributed by author.

Posted in Behind-the-Scenes, Exhibitions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments