Southern Synergy: The Philadelphia–Charleston Connection

Elle Shushan, Philadelphia, PA

Thursday, May 15, 2014Mini-exhibit: 7:30pmLecture: 8:00pm
de Young Museum

In 1790, Abigail Adams wrote that Philadelphia, a city filled with parties, balls and salons, was “equal to any European city.” Aristocratic Charlestonians, already accustomed to living in Philadelphia while serving in Congress, and not particularly enamored with plantation life, established both city and country residences there. The redoubtable Alice DeLancey Izard wrote to her oldest daughter, the equally formidable Margaret Izard Manigault, in 1807 that: “My heart is Divided. It is sometimes in Charleston, Sometimes in Philadelphia.” The salon of Alice DeLancey Izard and Margaret Izard Manigault established them as the reigning queens (ironic terminology for Federal Philadelphia) as the “Republican Court” (think Tea Party — literally), influencing politics, art and style.

In a time when portrait painters and miniaturists created public image, these cosmopolitan Charleston aristocrats patronized the best image-makers at home in Charleston, in Philadelphia and by Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley in Europe. Stylish Charlestonians also patronized Edward Greene Malbone, America’s leading miniaturist and an itinerant artist whose stops included Philadelphia and Charleston. They also patronized Thomas Sully, raised in Charleston and who became Philadelphia’s society portrait painter. Also among the artists patronized by South Carolina’s elite were Swiss-born Charlestonian Jeremiah Theus and Charlestonian Charles Fraser, whose work was influenced by Malbone. Ms Shusan’s presentation is a story of the New Republic, how the cosmopolitan, diplomatic, intertwined families of Izards, Middletons, Manigaults and Pinckneys lived between Europe, Charleston and Philadelphia, and made their most lasting impression with the artists they patronized.

Elle Shushan became interested in Chinese export porcelain, theater and “creepy” things as a teenager in her native New Orleans. She collected memento mori and Gothic chairs. Ms Shushan’s interest in objects related to death and mourning led to her write Grave Matters (1990).

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A Smile and a Shoeshine: Eric Shrubsole and the Antiques Business

Timothy Martin, S. J. Shrubsole

Tuesday, June 10, 2014Mini-exhibit: 7:30pmLecture: 8:00pm
de Young Museum
Silver askos-­form wine jug, Kirk & Sons

Silver askos-­form wine jug, Kirk & Sons, Baltimore, MD, ca. 1840

Tim Martin is the president of S.J. Shrubsole, specializing in the sale of antique American and British silver from the 19th century and earlier. Tim’s step­grandfather, Sydney James Shrubsole, founded the company in London in 1912.

Tim’s stepfather, Eric Shrubsole, opened the New York branch, in 1936 — not an auspicious year for retailing luxury goods. The undaunted, and charming, Eric Shrubsole drove to virtually every major American city in a black Packard loaded with antique silver and letters of introduction. Patronage by legendary American collectors, including H.F. duPont, Judge Irwin Untermyer and William Randolph Hearst, established S.J. Shrubsole as one of the leading purveyors of American, English, Irish, Scottish and Continental silver. The opening of Shrubsole’s New York gallery transformed the trans-Atlantic trade in fine antique silver.

When Groucho Marx was told that everything at S.J. Shrubsole was English and antique, he pointed his cigar at the porter and quipped “even him?” Shrubsole’s interests, however, included American silver. Mr. Martin will discuss some of the most important, and magnificent, pieces of American silver ever to come to the market.

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Kelton House Farm: Celebrating 17th Century American Furnishings, Architecture and Gardens

Joseph P. Gromacki, Chicago, IL

Tuesday, July 15, 2014Mini-exhibit: 7:30pmLecture: 8:00pm
de Young Museum

Joseph P. Gromacki will tell us about his house built in the first half of the 18th century, its collection of 17th and early 18th century American furniture and decorative arts, and the home’s bucolic landscape. His home, Kelton House Farm, is named for the family who built it in the upper Connecticut River Valley, near Deerfield, Massachusetts.

The five­-bay, boxed frame “saltbox” with a large brick center chimney and four fireplaces, including a large kitchen hearth with a bake oven. Kelton House exemplifies classic Georgian architecture, as interpreted by the rural refinement of the Connecticut River Valley in the early 18th century. The sense of place pervades the house from its interior chamfered corner posts; simple wall and wainscot raised paneling; feather-edged board walls; small-paned windows and interior wooden, raised panel shutters. Abandonment from active use at the time of the Civil War preserved the farmhouse in its original condition until the mid-20th century when it was carefully dismantled, moved, reconstructed and restored at its current site in rural Wisconsin.

Kelton House’s furniture, ceramic, textiles and metal wares are not intended to create a period house museum of the 17th century and early 18th century Instead, the assemblage of household furnishings reflects the aesthetic achievement and diverse cultural influences of its time. Most of the furniture is from New England — primarily made by joiners and turners of English descent — and the middle colonies — reflecting British, Dutch and German influences.

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“Mr. Jefferson’s Chair”

Sumpter Priddy, Alexandria, VA

Tuesday, August 12, 2014Mini-exhibit: 7:30pmLecture: 8:00pm
de Young Museum

Thomas Jefferson was among the first Americans to adopt ancient classical design for domestic structures, and to advocate furnishing these homes with innovative furniture to further inspire their inhabitants with republican virtue. Among the distinctive pieces that caught his imagination was the Campeachy chair, a Latin American seating form introduced to the United States following the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson’s difficulty in securing his first Campeachy chair — and the dearth of documentation when he finally did acquire one — have left scholars to ponder the chair’s source and the date when it arrived at Monticello.

The recent translation of two letters, written in French, between Thomas Jefferson’s friends and the Trist family has helped unravel the mystery. In 1817, the former president invited Nicholas Trist, a 17-year old from Louisiana, to live at Monticello. Soon after his arrival, the young man ordered a Campeachy chair from New Orleans. The crest of the chair contained a circle of stars — much like the first American flag. The exotic import was upholstered in red morocco upholstery with the initials “TJ” entwined in a cipher on the leather.

Surprisingly, Nicholas Trist ordered a second chair at the same time. The second Campeachy chair was intended for his grandmother, Elizabeth Trist. The second chair would have been identical to Mr. Jefferson’s chair, but for the initials “ET” in the leather. The pair of matching chairs stood side by side at Monticello and, during the summer months, at Poplar Forest in Bedford County. This pair of chairs remains as potent symbols of the president’s ties to an amicable — yet little known — lady named Elizabeth Trist.

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Dressing Philadelphia’s Finest Furniture: Upholstered, Covered and Hung

Alexandra Alevizatos Kirtley, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Tuesday, September 9, 2014Mini-exhibit: 7:30pmLecture: 8:00pm
de Young Museum

Soon after their marriage in March, 1805, Philadelphians William and Mary Willcocks Waln retained British-born architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764–1820) to design and build a new style mansion at the corner of Seventh and Chestnut Streets. After three years of construction, Latrobe began to design the furniture and the painted wall ornament for the drawing room — the social center of the house. The drawing room furniture, all that is left of the house that was razed in 1843, embodies the aspirations of its designer and the merchant who commissioned the furniture.

While the Walns’ furniture has long been admired for its sleek profiles and lavishly painted surfaces, the upholstery was also shockingly innovative. The Walns’ drawing room furniture has been the subject of a five-year examination, analysis and conservation treatment by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Documentary research has utilized period design books to complement the physical evidence left on the chairs. The history of upholstery and upholsterers in Philadelphia also helped provide information for reupholstering the Waln family chairs. Ms Kirtley will focus on the Waln furniture’s upholstery, the most crucial element of a room’s design for 18th and early 19th century Philadelphia patrons.

Dolley Madison, formerly a Philadelphian, was so smitten with Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s growing — and glowing — reputation that she retained him to refurbish the President’s House for her. When the Madisons’ inaugurated their drawing room on New Year’s Day of 1810, Washington society was enthralled by the glamorous new style that established the White House as a fashion setter, as well as the seat of power.

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