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INSPIRATION | October 27, 2021 | By Saxon Henry
The Winterthur Museum Legacy
The Winterthur Museum was once the country estate of Henry Francis du Pont, who acquired an extensive collection of nearly 90,000 objects made or used in America between about 1640 and 1860. The collection is displayed in the magnificent 175-room house, much as it was when the du Pont family lived there, as well as in permanent and changing exhibition galleries.
Winterthur Museum is an American Gem
Though the Winterthur Museum did not officially open until 1951, it was from the beginning a museum: private, of course, but already poised to become the grand country estate it is today with remarkable design archives. Du Pont was a visionary and advocate for American antiques and decorative objects. An avid collector, he was guided by a desire to furnish his home with the very best style and craftsmanship available. When archives such as the ones at Winterthur are extant, the opportunity to bring historical designs forward is so much easier than when the evidence of how products were made in the past doesn’t exist. This is one of the reasons we at Currey & Company value our relationship with Winterthur Museum.
The book cover of “Winterthur: The Foremost Museum of American Furniture and Decorative Arts.”
In his book Winterthur: The Foremost Museum of American Furniture and Decorative Arts, author Jay E. Cantor paints a beautiful picture of the development of the museum. As in so many stories, economic forces influenced the outcome of this one. In his chapter “American Antiques in an American House,” Cantor explains that the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression contributed to the museum’s collections: “By the early 1930’s Henry du Pont had emerged as a major collector and he was inundated with offers of objects from individuals and from dealers.”
This room at Winterthur Museum illustrates the quality of the furnishings within the home.
Cantor goes on to say, “By 1929 he had collected objects of such fine quality, especially furniture, that they are still considered masterpieces today.” A visit to the home in Wilmington bears this out, and we recommend going beyond the self-guided introductory tour to see other treasures at the Winterthur Museum by booking the one-hour “A Closer Look” during which museum guides discuss their favorite objects, floors, and rooms. Every tour is unique since each guide delights in sharing their personal favorites. Days, details, and times are at the end of this post.
Currey & Company and Winterthur
The Aster Desk, in the Winterthur Collection, paired with our Ines Mist Ivory Chair.
As a way to salute our partnership with the museum, we share a roundup of our products in the Winterthur Collection, each inspired by an antique collected by du Pont, that illustrates how finely designed the originals are and how thoughtfully our Director of Furniture Aimee Kurzner has translated them into new pieces. The Aster Etagere joins the other products in this family this fall, brand new to our offerings.
Made of mahogany and oak in a mix of off-white and Fog finishes, the Aster Etagere was inspired by an antique from the Winterthur Museum. The gray and white etagere has three shelves and is fitted with brass ferrules that are warm accents in a brass finish. We also have a desk and a nightstand in the Aster family of products, each of which are in the Winterthur Collection and were introduced earlier this year.
Introduced earlier this year, the Chelsea Desk is made of mahogany in a Snow-White finish. The white desk has one drawer on which the brass pull is a warm accent in a brass finish. We also offer the Chelsea as a chest and a side chair, all part of the Winterthur Collection.
The historical sketches that inspired our Zara Lanterns.
Among our longest-standing popular products inspired by Winterthur Museum antiques are the Zara Lanterns and Wall Sconce. These were inspired by original hand-colored drawings for revival-style lighting created in the early 20th century for Georgian Lighting Shops of Philadelphia. They are named for Zara du Pont, a great-granddaughter of the founder of the du Pont Company.
The Zara Large Lantern.
Her namesake chandelier with its visual lightness and glass ornamentation is characteristic of the neoclassical designs that were revived in the 1920’s. We offer the lanterns in large (shown above), medium, and small. These designs have truly had tremendous staying power in our lineup.
The Zara Wall Sconce dangles lovely smoke-hued crystals. The Viejo gold and Viejo silver finishes on the wrought iron frame are warm contrasts to its seeded glass panels. The decorative accents on this gold and silver sconce include timeless floral and acanthus leaf motifs.
Another design that continues to be popular after a long run in our offerings is the Duke Wall Sconce, which is finished in deep Zanzibar black with Zanzibar gold leaf accents. This incredibly detailed and opulent black wall sconce is a true masterpiece that was inspired by historical designs. The Duke is included in our Winterthur Collection.
Make Time to Visit
The holidays are an exciting time to visit the Winterthur Museum.
As mentioned above, “A Closer Look” tours are available Friday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., but you must reserve a spot at least three days in advance. Each tour can accommodate a maximum of five visitors over the age of eight and costs $10, which will be added to each person’s General Admission fee. Members of the museum can take the tours for free. Also at Winterthur Museum, those of you who love to decorate for the holidays will want to take in Yuletide at Winterthur, which runs from November 20, 2021, through January 2, 2022. There’s a section of the museum’s website where you can plan your visit.