Victoria Mansion has, in its collections, over 90% of the objects that were in the house in 1860. After Ruggles Morse passed away, his widow Olive made a room-by-room list of the furnishings and objects she sold to the Libby family along with the house. Thankfully, we have that original inventory and have used it, as well as photographs taken during the Morse and Libby occupancies, to identify pieces that were removed from the site and to ensure they are returned to their proper locations.
Parlor festoons, 1858-1860. Silk and wire. Victoria Mansion. Photo: Gail Dodge.
Victoria Mansion’s textile collection includes more than 550 original pieces used in the decoration of the house. Fragments of curtains, carpets, and upholstery were saved by the Libby family, even as they updated and replaced items that were showing some wear and tear. The most notable part of this collection however is the passementerie: tassels, fringe, and other decorative objects that were used to highlight furniture and window treatments.
These pieces, floral festoons original to the Parlor, are made of fine silk wrapped around a delicate wire coil shaped into elaborate flowers and leaves. The conservation of the Parlor will include reproduction of these exquisite details.
Purchased from the noted New Orleans banker and art collector James Robb, The Iconoclasts, by Emmanuel Leutze (1816-1868) hangs in the Parlor. The painting depicts the destruction of a church during the English Civil War, and was commissioned by Robb in 1846. The frame was designed by Gustave Herter (1839-1883) for this house, and it bears an “M.” Herter designed a matching frame for the other painting hanging in the Parlor, Jacob’s Dream, by Luther Terry (1813-1869), which was also purchased from Robb’s collection.
Emmanuel Leutze, The Iconoclasts, 1846. Oil on canvas. Gustave Herter, 1858-1860. Victoria Mansion.
Gustave Herter and unknown French manufacturer, 1858-1860. Rosewood, marble, porcelain. Victoria Mansion. Photo: J. David Bohl.
Double sinks in the guest bedroom were intended to make guests comfortable and are reminiscent of those found in the hotels where Morse made his fortune. Gustave Herter designed the marble-topped vanity, into which are set painted porcelain bowls of unknown French manufacture. A vanity set in a matching pink design includes toothbrush cases, soap boxes, pitcher, cups, and a chamber pot.