Sunday, February 8, 2009

An In-Depth Look at American Style

Tonight was my first experience with "The Observant Eye," a twice-monthly program for recent college graduates and young adults interested in art. Well, it just so happens, I am one of those, so I eagerly enrolled. About an hour-and-a-half long, it is really a lecture/discussion with a curator of a specific department (right up my ally, right?).
They lent us little Met stools and herded us over to the American Wing, where we parked ourselves in front of a Rococo revival parlour.

The room was designed by John Henry Belter, a German immigrant whose furniture became popular in the mid-19th century. Remarkably, Belter discovered important new techniques for furniture manufacturing — his were the first pieces to have curved wooden structures, like the Tête-à-tête in this room. In addition to his New York showroom, Belter built a five-story factory had separate floors for each step in the process of furniture making from carpentry to upholstery; interestingly, people of different ethnicities worked in each department. For more photos on the Met's flickr page, click here.

Next, we encircled our little folding stools around a Herter Brothers Library Table built for the opulent Fifth Avenue mansion of William H. Vanderbilt.
The top is rosewood with inlaid mahogany and accurately placed mother-of-pearl constellations from Vanderbilt's birthday, May 8, 1821. I was glad to learn a little more about this stunningly beautiful piece, after all, I had admired it on many occasions.

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