During my trip to High Point Market several weeks ago, Bethanne Matari and Cecil Adams of Currey & Company introduced me to Kristin DeMesse, the director of licensed products at Winterthur Museum. I was excited to find out more about the Delaware cultural institution that houses a remarkable collection of American antiques and decorative objects collected by Henry Francis du Pont, particularly because his influence on design in this country is a fabled one that includes interactions with some of our most admired tastemakers.
One of these is Jacqueline Kennedy, who felt the Truman-era White House lacked the panache and historical heft she felt America’s first residence should exude when she moved in as the First Lady. To help her accomplish the task of updating the interiors, she reached out to a handful of trusted advisers, including American designer Sister Parish, Parisian designer Stéphane Boudin, and du Pont. I was amazed to learn that the White House wasn’t declared a museum until the Kennedys took it upon themselves to create the White House Historical Association, which they used to promote the seriousness of preserving the president’s residence as a home of historical significance.
The First Lady tapped du Pont to chair the Fine Arts Committee and to advise her on the acquisition of antiques during the renovations, which took place between 1961 and 1963. This was ten years after the du Ponts had transformed their home into the Winterthur Museum so he was an excellent choice for the First Lady to make. I plan to visit Winterthur soon to get a look at their collection, which includes everything from carpets and secretaries to benches and candlesticks. I’ll share my experiences on one of my other blogs but I didn’t want to put off sharing these great new releases with Productrazzi’s readers because they have just debuted (a Winterthur Collection partnership with Currey & Company) at #HPMkt in mid-October 2014.
The Montmorenci Chandelier
Inspired by a light fixture from the late-classical revival period (1815-1840) showcased in Winterthur’s Empire Parlor, this chandelier was named after a historic house in Warren County, North Carolina, that dates back to 1822. The grand staircase of this home was purchased, transported to Winterthur and installed in the 1902 wing of du Pont’s home. Important design details of the original fixture include a French-style ormolu ring that exemplifies a trend in adding touches of gold to interior decoration at the time, and attributes of an early Argand lamp, which would have been fitted with a cylindrical wick and fueled by whale oil—an important advancement because the flame it produced was significantly brighter than a candle. Of particular note on the resulting chandelier are the corkscrew cables connecting the canopy to the lower circular frame and a Spanish Gilt finish, which give the four-light chandelier a distinctive European feel.
The Chestertown Settee
A 19th-century Massachusetts settee was the starting point for the design of the new Chestertown settee, reinterpreted by the Currey & Company design team to fit seamlessly into today’s interiors. The solid wood bench-like settee has a triple-slat back ornamented with decorative urns and ovals. The Brandywine mahogany finish is one of the features that updates the vintage piece to appeal to modern day sensibilities.
The Jacqueline Lamp
Henry du Pont collected more than furniture. His world-class library that now holds more than 500,000 books and documents relating to the decorative arts also serve as inspiration for new product releases. A special section of the library—the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera—contains examples of 19th-century ephemera from the John and Carolyn Grossman Collection. Included in the assortment of scrapbooks, cards, and other colorful paper collectibles is the 1881 edition of the influential pattern book Suggestions in Floral Design by English drawing instructor and amateur botanist Frederick E. Hulme.
The book features 52 beautifully chromolithographed plates of floral and plant forms printed by the French firm Dupuy & Fils, many of them highlighted in gold. These designs were intended for wallpaper, carpets, tiles, and any other surfaces deemed appropriate for decoration. Currey & Company’s designers used these exquisitely detailed floral motifs as inspiration for a number of table lamps, including the base of the Jacqueline.
The Centerville Chest
The Centerville chest owes its design to a 17th-century oak chest of drawers created in Essex County, Massachusetts—the earliest dated chest of drawers from New England. Made for John and Margaret Staniford of Ipswich to celebrate the year of their marriage, the chest has 1678 incised in a small tablet-like panel at the center of the lower drawer to make note of this. The Currey & Company design team emulated the original design as the foundation for their updated version.
I consider myself fortunate to have access to such historically significant design details through collaborations like the one between Winterthur and Currey & Company, and I look forward to touring the museum, the contents of which represent such a storied swath of America’s design heritage.
Text of Currey & Company’s Winterthur Collection © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is an author, poet and journalist based in New York City. Books include Anywhere But Here and Stranded on the Road to Promise. She also produces The Diary of an Improvateur and is a columnist on Architizer.