The Preservation Society of Newport County is one of the richest resources in the nation for the fine and decorative arts of the Gilded Age. Visiting Curator Ulysses Grant Dietz went “treasure hunting” in the historic properties of the Preservation Society, and he found 100 objects that he had seen many times — but had never really looked at. He realized that sometimes, inside these beautiful mansions, it’s hard to see the individual pieces because of all the other things around them.
Why did people in the Gilded Age want to own these things?
What was it about these objects that made them desirable?
This exhibition lets you look closely at objects ranging in date from the late 1400s to the early 1900s, all of which were collected during the Gilded Age. These beautiful things — furniture, metalwork, ceramics, glass, painting, sculpture, prints, and photographs — come from all over the world, and represent many different styles and tastes. They also represent the skills of exceptional craftspeople — including many anonymous workers who couldn’t afford to own the things they made.
As you explore Anything You Want, take a closer look at these works of art and think about why someone in the Gilded Age might have wanted to own them.
Then ask yourself: Would I want it? Why? Why not?
Imagine you are Harold Vanderbilt and can buy anything you want … anything in the world.
Les Trois Amis (The Three Friends)
(Portrait of Harold Stirling Vanderbilt) Charles Chaplin (1825-1891), 1887; Frame made by Jules Allard and Sons (active 1878-1907), Paris Oil on canvas, carved and gilded oak Bequest of Harold S. Vanderbilt. PSNC.429.
Are old things better than new things?
Louis XV Chest of Drawers (Commode)
Attributed to Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763), Paris, 1740-1760 Wood with marquetry veneers, marble, gilded bronze (ormolu) Bequest of Harold S. Vanderbilt. PSNC.413.a-b.
Do we like old things because they link us to the past?
Unidentified maker, Boston, 1730-1740 Mahogany, maple, leather Purchased by The Preservation Society of Newport County. PSNC.1787a-b.
How do beautifully crafted things express ugly, racist ideas?
Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (active 1710-present), Dresden, Germany, late 1800s Hard-paste porcelain, enamel Bequest of Mrs. Aletta Morris McBean. PSNC.9048.
Beautiful craftsmanship also can reflect global trade patterns.
Vase Decorated with Chrysanthemums (One of a Pair)
Hansuke Kawamoto V (1831-1907) or VI (1844-1905) for Hyochien (1873-1909), Tokyo, Japan, 1879 Stoneware, enamel Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Gwendolen E. Rives. PSNC.5098.1.
Silver is a way to tell people publicly that they are important to you.
“Four Elements” Centerpiece
John C. Moore (1803-1874), New York, 1851 Retailed by Tiffany, Young & Ellis (active 1837-1853), New York Sterling silver, silver-plated brass Gift of Norrie Wetmore Sellar. PSNC.9804.
Beautiful things can be functional.
Mantel Clock and Candelabra
Attributed to Raingo Frères (active 1823-1890), Paris, 1875-1890 Retailed by Tiffany & Co. (active 1837-present), New York Marble, gilded bronze (ormolu), metal, glass, enamel Gift of Countess Anthony Szapáry. PSNC.2960.1-.3a-e.
Modern Design, the Latest Thing
Parlor Cabinet in the Colonial Style
Unidentified maker, England, 1870s Rosewood, tulipwood, satinwood, glass, metal Gift of Mrs. Gwendolen E. Rives. PSNC.6136.
Showing Off, or Pleasing Oneself
Dining Chair (from a Set of 25)
Jules Allard and Sons (1878-1907), Paris, c. 1890 Cast bronze, gilded bronze (ormolu), cut velvet Gift of Mr. Frederick H. Prince. PSNC.430.1-.25.
Closed Armchair (Bergère)
Designed by Ogden Codman, Jr. (1863-1951), for A. H. Davenport & Co. (1880-1974), Boston, c. 1895 Painted wood, reproduction chintz Gift of Gladys T. Peterson and Countess Anthony Szapáry. PSNC.2905.11.
More Tours, Events & Exhibitions
10:30am and 2:30pm
Explore the underground systems that made this great house a marvel of technology for its time.
Saturdays & Sundays
multiple times daily
Who are the French kings and Greek gods depicted on the walls? Why is the Gothic Room so ... Gothic? Hear all the details of this spectacular house, and stories of the people who lived and worked there, from one of our expert guides.
January 26 – March 2, 2023
Learn about the historical set locations of Julian Fellowes’ “The Gilded Age” on HBO; African American designers and dressmakers who created the garments worn by privileged Newporters; cocktails that were all the rage in the Gilded Age; and the music that brought elegance and beauty to the soundtrack of the period.
February 9, 2023
Who were the designers and dressmakers who skillfully created garments for privileged Newporters in the past?
February 20 – 24, 2023
10:30am – 12:00pm
Story Time at The Breakers Stable & Carriage House is a celebration of the winter season!
February 23, 2023
The Gilded Age was also the “Golden Age of Cocktails,” when discriminating palates discovered the delights of new concoctions that became the classic cocktails of today: the Martini, Manhattan, Old-Fashioned and more. Get the story from the author of “Gilded Age Cocktails.”
March 2, 2023
Step back in time to experience live music the Gilded Age way.
Starting April 1, 2023
See and hear how the other half lived as you take the Servant Life Tour at The Elms. This tour will highlight the stories of some of the men and women who worked to service the social whirl of Newport during the Gilded Age.