Victorian Parlor from Butler-Greenwood Plantation will be on view June 26-October 11, 2015
New Orleans, LA- Opening this summer at the New Orleans Museum of Art, A Louisiana Parlor: Antebellum Taste & Context is an exhibition featuring the Butler-Greenwood Plantation parlor furnishings acquired by the museum from descendants of the family in St. Francisville, Louisiana. The 1850s/60s parlor suite has survived with original textiles and rich documentation, making it one of the South’s best preserved examples of a pre-Civil War Louisiana interior.
The exhibition explores the relationship between this refined interior and its layered historical context through family portraits on loan from The Historic New Orleans Collection and through documents housed in the Mathews family archives of letters, receipts, and bills of sale held at LSU Library Special Collections.
“NOMA is honored to be the custodian of one of the region’s most important antebellum rooms,” said Susan M. Taylor, NOMA’s Director. “We are dedicated to the preservation of this room and to sharing its history with our visitors who will be able to enjoy it for years to come as part of our permanent collection.”
The parlor was assembled between 1852 and 1861 by Harriet Flower Mathews (1794-1873), the widow of Louisiana Supreme Court Judge George Mathews (1774-1836). Harriet’s drawing room had wall-to-wall carpeting imported through her local Bayou Sara (St. Francisville) retailer. From New Orleans’ C. Flint & Jones, she purchased nine-foot-tall gilt pier mirrors and dramatic silk lambrequin curtains. Her suite of carved rosewood seating furniture and a marble top center table came from Hubbell & Curtis in Bridgeport, Connecticut. All the furnishings are in a unified floral fashion that was called the “Modern French” taste in the period, but is now known as Rococo Revival. The style, which resurrected exuberant floral 18th-century Rococo ornament, flourished especially in Victorian parlors from 1845 to 1865. The exhibition will place Rococo Revival in context with other 19th-century historical revival styles, by including Classical Revival, Gothic Revival, and Renaissance Revival style decorative arts from NOMA’s permanent collection which include furniture, ceramics, glass, silver, and paintings.
NOMA curatorial staff has overseen the careful conservation of these rare surviving textiles, working with Howard Sutcliffe of River Region Costume and Textile Conservation to carefully clean, repair damage and stabilize the upholstery, carpet, and curtains while respecting the original condition.
“What is remarkable about this parlor is that the family preserved not only silk upholstery and tassels, but also receipts and letters. A story unfolds of a Connecticut furniture retailer requesting payment from their Louisiana client literally days before the onset of the Civil War,” says Mel Buchanan, NOMA’s RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. “A letter from the retailer in 1867 inquires after the unpaid bill. These bookended letters and NOMA’s parlor, caught in time, remind us of the profound changes for this plantation between 1861 and 1865.”
A Louisiana Parlor: Antebellum Taste & Context will be on view June 26 – October 11, 2015 in the Ella West Freeman Gallery and will be integrated into NOMA’s permanent collection of decorative arts shortly thereafter. This exhibition will also feature a new interactive tablet-based app featuring layered interpretive content about the parlor. The app will be available on a tablet in the exhibition gallery and can also be accessed online.
A Louisiana Parlor: Antebellum Style and Context is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and is sponsored by the Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Carol Flower Layton Parsons.
About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden:
The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 art objects encompassing 4,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing special exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjoining Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit www.noma.org.
Wednesdays are free admission days for Louisiana residents, courtesy of The Helis Foundation. (May not include special exhibitions.)
Teenagers (ages 13-19) receive free admission every day through the end of 2015, courtesy of The Helis Foundation.