Choose from three thousand messages about works throughout the Museum, including a selection in the American Wing.
Listen to a sample from the Collections audio guide.
Morrison Heckscher: You may wonder about the preponderance of French names in this case – in the American wing.
Peter Kenny: A taste for French decorative arts really occurred at the end of the Revolution. But they were spurred on, particularly into the 19th century, as Americans began to switch their interests to a richer, more archeologically-correct antique style. And the French were the leaders in this area.
Morrison Heckscher: That's Peter Kenny, who is joined at this case by fellow curator Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen. They note that the many American diplomats who traveled to France in the 19th century helped establish the taste for French Decorative Arts. Often they sent back cartons full of goods….
Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen: French influence and French taste… I think is represented best ever in the porcelain that was used in America.
Morrison Heckscher: French porcelains often featured topographical views of Paris. But, now, look for the vase on the lower right depicting a building interior with a curved, vaulted ceiling.
Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen: But here you have monuments of New York City, the Merchant's Exchange, this fantastic classical building represented in sort of miniaturist detail on one of the vases in this case, for example.
Peter Kenny: You've named my favorite piece in this entire case. The Merchant's Exchange shows an interior, which is really quite wonderful. And it's very interesting that the French were capitalizing on what they felt what was going to be the pride of New York; these great new buildings. And I think that this particular ceramic has great meaning for us as a museum and also for New Yorkers because of the unfortunate burning of the original Merchant's Exchange built in 1827 and 1835. So it's a great document of history of these interiors for us - one of the few.