Sunday, December 27, 2015

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I periodically take a day trip up to Philadelphia, which is about 2 hours away from me by train. This last time, I'd planned on seeing the remainder of the historic homes in Fairmount Park, but that ended up taking less time than I'd expected, so I decided to make a long-overdue visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I didn't have a huge amount of expectations, although I had recalled seeing somewhere that they had the interior of an English country house. As it turns out, the museum has the interiors of a number of country houses, including one Robert Adam interior. Photos of those below, but first things first -- I also found Elizabeth Darcy:


This is "Portrait of Harriott West (Later Mrs. William Woodgate)" c. 1824-25, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Because it's from the 1820s, the clothes are a little off of what we'd commonly expect (although they are what Elizabeth will be wearing in her 30s), and she is not wearing yellow, but I think in all the rest of her particulars, she is very much Elizabeth. A little asymmetrical, hair a little mussed from walking out of doors, a face Miss Bingley could have found too thin, and of course, a pair of fine eyes, rendering her face uncommonly intelligent. I believe the future Mrs. Woodgate AND Jennifer Ehle will now have to be my models for Elizabeth.

Now, returning to the interiors. I loved that there was a mixture of paintings, furnishings and other decorative arts, and what the museum has done is bring in these old interiors as the gallery display space, so that you can see all of this artwork within the context of a historic interior. I loved it. Here are some of the most striking items and spaces:

Some magnificent Tudor-era carving. It would have been considered outmoded by the Regency, but I think some houses like Longbourn and certainly Stradbroke Castle would have had some Tudor relics.

Embroidery detail on a woman's dress from 1805. You can get a bit of a sense of just how transparent the muslin fabric was. Layers were a must!

 
When I've written about the mistress' bedroom at Pemberley featuring heavy, overdone furnishings, I imagine it as a sort of ridiculous Rococo display, featuring furnishings like this (why that is will eventually be explained in one of the future books in the Constant Love series). They're displayed in an interior from Wrightington Hall, Lancashire, c. 1748. One thing that intrigued me about these items is that I think you can see the influence of some of these Rococo items on the Art Nouveau movement. If they had put those wall sconces up in an art nouveau gallery, I totally would have bought that they were of that era.

 
Similarly, if it hadn't been in the gallery with other furniture of the era, I would have assumed this to be a mid-century modern piece, but it's actually from 1816! I wonder if Eliabeth might go for something like this when she finally gets around to redecorating the mistress' bedroom at Pemberley. 

 
What was known as Georgian style furnishing and decor in England was "Federalist" in America, and these furnishings very much epitomize it. I think these are the sorts of items Elizabeth would go for -- neat, modern, simple style. They're displayed within an interior from Ezekiel Hersey Derby House, from Salem, Massachusetts.

 
This is an interior, possibly from Sutton Scarsdale Hall in Derbyshire, from somewhere between the 1720s and 1740s. The detailing around the fireplace is amazing.

Portrait of Sophie Richards, 1841. They had a fine collection of miniatures, but I was particularly struck by this one. She looks so melancholy! It makes me wonder what her story was.

Somewhat creepy eye miniatures. They were very much popular at the time. I wonder if Mr. Darcy might have had one done of one of Elizabeth's fine eyes?

 
Last but not least, the Robert Adam interior, from the drawing room from Lansdowne House, London, c. 1766-75. A video look at the interior is below:

Writing Elizabeth as a widow

There's one final Mistress blog post out today! I'm at Catherine Curzon's blog talking about writing Elizabeth as a widow.