May 27 — October 30, Rosecliff — Included with regular admission.
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
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.
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.
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.