Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age

The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room is a jewel-box of a room and a quintessential expression of the Aesthetic movement, which was in vogue during the late 1870s and early 1880s.

The Luxonomist. 04/12/2015

The most sumptuous moment in America’s Gilded Age is revealed through the work of some of its most noted design firms in Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age, opening December 15 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The centerpiece of the three-part exhibition is the opulent Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room from the New York City house commissioned by art collector and philanthropist Arabella Worsham (later Huntington; ca. 1850–1924). A complete work of art, with its elaborate woodwork and decorations, it is a rare surviving commission by the New York-based cabinetmaker and interior decorator George A. Schastey (1839–1894), who is the subject of the second part of the exhibition.

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The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room. (Photo: metmuseum.org). Click to book

Although little-known today, Schastey operated a large and successful decorating firm in the late 19th century, catering to some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals. His work and important role will be highlighted by loans from public and private collections, some of them newly attributed to him and never before on public view. Furniture by some of his contemporaries also will be included.

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The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room. Click to book

The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room is a jewel-box of a room and a quintessential expression of the Aesthetic movement, which was in vogue during the late 1870s and early 1880s. The movement stressed the artistic and embraced an amalgamation of different styles, as seen here in the flat, stylized, natural ornamentation in combination with carved flourishes in the Renaissance style. The room comes from the 4 West 54th Street home of Arabella Worsham, mistress (and later, wife) of railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington. She commissioned Schastey to decorate the house in 1881.

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Worsham-Rockefeller house. Click to book

The exhibition will feature furniture from several other rooms of the Worsham-Rockefeller house, notably the Moorish reception room (now at the Brooklyn Museum) and a bedroom (now at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond), all by Schastey. Other decorations from the house will add context and texture, such as a glorious pair of leaded-glass windows by noted stained-glass artist John La Farge.

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