In its collections, Victoria Mansion has over 90% of the objects that were in the house in 1860. Olive Morse made a room-by-room list of the furnishings and objects she sold to the Libby family with the house after her husband Ruggles died. Thankfully, we have that original inventory. We have used it and photographs taken during the Morse and Libby occupancies to identify and ensure pieces that were removed from the site are returned to their proper locations. Some of the most spectacular pieces are highlighted here.
Victoria Mansion’s assemblage of furniture, window cornices, and mirror and picture frames is the largest collection of objects from Gustave Herter’s workshop in the United States. The figured maple and rosewood cabinet is one of the most important examples of Herter’s workmanship in the museum’s collection. It has carved, incised, painted, and inlaid ornament reflecting different stylistic influences. The winged females carved on the upper section recall designs of the baroque era. On the upper door is a floral oil painting of French neoclassical inspiration; the lower door has a rococo-style marquetry panel depicting a girl blowing bubbles.
Cabinet, 1858-1860. Maple and rosewood. Gustave Herter. Victoria Mansion.
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.
Parlor festoons, 1858-1860. Silk and wire. Victoria Mansion. Photo: Gail Dodge.
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.
Painting, Emmanuel Leutze, The Iconoclasts, 1846. Oil on canvas. Frame, Gustave Herter, 1858-1860. Victoria Mansion.
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.
Cabinet, Gustave Herter. Porcelain, unknown French manufacturer, 1858-1860. Rosewood, marble, porcelain. Victoria Mansion. Photo: J. David Bohl.