Newport Mansion Exhibits Vanderbilt Art Collection
One of Newport, Rhode Island's Gilded Age mansions, Marble House is getting back some of its original treasures, at least for at time. The AP reports that the collection of more than 300 objects of Medieval and Renaissance art amassed by the Vanderbilt family will be back at the home where they were once hosed. The pieces were bought in Paris and displayed in Marble House's red-walled Gothic Room. But after the house closed in 1925 the collection was sold to art collector and circus entrepreneur John Ringling. The pieces now have a permanent home at the John and Mable Ringling Musuem of Art in Sarasota, Florida. The Ringling Museum has loaned the collection to Marble House through October 31 and the pieces have all been reassembled in the Gothic Room and displayed as they were 100 years ago.
The Preservation Society of Newport County operates the Marble House and other Newport mansions as public museums. With its elaborate columns and style Marble House is among the most popular of Newport's mansions. It was completed in 1892 for railroad heir William K. Vanderbilt and his wife, Alva. The cost was a reported $11 million and it was the most lavish house in America when it was built.
In 1889, the Vanderbilts and architect Richard Morris Hunt traveled to Paris to find artworks and other decorative pieces for the home. They acquired the Gothic collection of French art dealer Emile Gavet in 1890 and sent it to Newport. The pieces include metalwork, furniture and ceramics created across Europe chiefly between 1100 and 1550. "Hunt redesigned the ground floor sitting room of Marble House into a Medieval setting specifically to accommodate the collection," said Preservation Society Curator Paul Miller. "Sculpture was hung on the lowest tier, just above the wainscoting, followed by small paintings, over which were positioned larger panel paintings interspersed with ceramics perched on wall brackets. Smaller objects were scattered about the room in display cases."
Ringling bought the works in 1927 for $125,000. Many of the items have been displayed at the Ringling Museum, but others were in storage. The collection includes 15th-century Italian paintings, painted terra cotta busts, copper and silver chalices and a case of wax portrait medallions bearing the likenesses of such dignitaries as King Henry II of France and popes Benedict XIV and Clement XI. Tickets are available here.