Collection Highlights

Object of the Month: Chickering and Sons Grand Piano

This grand piano made of satinwood veneer and Macassar ebony today is featured in the Drawing Room and was designed by Chickering & Sons (founded by Jonas Chickering and James Stewart). Established in Boston in 1823, Chickering & Sons was the first significant piano manufacturer in the United States. The firm was known for using steam power in the manufacturing process and for implementing groundbreaking designs, such as the one-piece cast iron frame.

Chickering & Sons (American, 1823-1908). Grand piano with satinwood veneer and painted floral decorations, ca. 1895. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Collection Highlights

Tiffany Eighteen-Light Lily Table Lamp

The introduction of Tiffany’s Lily lamps was a turning point in lighting design, showcasing not only the naturalism and sinuous curves of modern Art Nouveau design but also the capabilities of electric lights. The Lily lamp became popular after its first feature in 1902, and was available in tabletop and floor length forms. The lamp’s design was altered to hold anywhere from 6 and 18 individual lights. The Lily lamp highlighted Tiffany’s signature Favrile glass, a method of combining various colors in the molten state in a furnace to create delicate textures and gradations.

Tiffany Studios (American, 1902-1932). Eighteen-light Lily table lamp, ca. 1910. Favrile glass and gilt bronze. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum. 

Ebonized Library Table and Side Chair

George Schastey founded one of the most prominent cabinetmaking and decorative interiors firms of the Gilded Age. Born in Merseburg, Prussia, Schastey immigrated to New York in 1849 and worked his way through New York’s developing furniture trade before starting his own firm in 1873. Schastey was known for graceful interpretations of the Aesthetic Movement, an eclectic design movement prevalent of the period. His superior designs were highly influenced by the Renaissance, aspects of Islamic art, and the contemporary British Aesthetic Movement.   

George A. Schastey (American, 1839-1894). Ebonized library table and side chair, c. 1880. Original to the Samuel M. Nickerson House. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Gem-set Inkstand

This piece was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria for the royal physician Dr. Ignatz von Zauber in recognition of his twenty-five years of service in the city of Munich’s government. Fritz von Miller, was a second-generation bronze-caster, as well as a goldsmith and designer. In 1864, he began his plans for the Zauber inkwell in partnership with Adam Hausinger, who was also a jeweler to the House of Bavaria. The inkwell is ornamented with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds and includes mythical and allegorical figures such as Hercules and the Hydra, Time, and Victory.

Fritz von Miller (German, 1840-1921) and Adam Hausinger (1820-1908). Jewel- and gem-set inkstand, 1864. Silver, gilt-bronze, and enamel. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Ceramic Clock

Founded in 1877 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the Low Art Tile Works was one of the foremost decorative tile firms in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. John Gardner Low and his father John Low began their decorative tile business after being inspired by the European tiles at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. While the majority of their tiles were used as architectural wall decorations, the company also created self-supporting pieces like this ceramic clock. Low Art Tiles are featured throughout the Driehaus Museum, including as a decorative feature on the walls of the Reception Room and the Smoking Room.

J. & J. G. Low Art Tile Works (American, 1877-1907). Clock, 1884. Glazed tile and gilt bronze. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Curtain Border Floor Lamp

The curtain border design on this lamp is one of the most popular patterns created by Tiffany Studios. It was one of the firm’s first designs, and it remained in continuous production for many years. The floor lamp is constructed with the trademark Favrile glass in red, yellow, orange, and green hues and is topped with a pigtail finial. This lamp is unique to Tiffany’s other pieces in that the shade cannot be detached from its base.

Tiffany Studios (American, 1902-1932). Curtain trim floor lamp, c. 1900. Photo by Alexander Vertikoff, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

A Wanderer in the Elysian Fields

Charlotte Major Wyllie exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in London, a progressive institution that featured Aesthetic Movement art and supported female artists.  Wyllie actively painted for a relatively brief period, and A Wanderer in the Elysian Fields was the last of the ten pieces she exhibited at the gallery.  In classical mythology, the Elysian fields were the final resting place of heroes and others favored by the gods. This work indicates Wyllie’s enthusiasm for symbolism, specifically through the use of flowers. White lilies symbolize the restored innocence of a departed soul after death, while light pink roses symbolize gratitude and peace. Wyllie was influenced by many of her fellow artists at Grosvenor, including Edward Burne-Jones and other members of the avant-garde Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Charlotte Major Wyllie (English, 1864-1950). A Wanderer in the Elysian Fields. Oil on canvas. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Patinated Cast Bronze Vessel & Bronze Phoenix Candelabras

The West’s fascination with Japanese art expanded rapidly when trade routes with Japan opened in 1854. The Nickersons were connoisseurs of Japanese art, and these pieces from the Meiji period have held a prominent spot in the mansion since at least 1888. The style of the Meiji period sought to provoke dramatic effects with symbolic themes from Japanese history and folklore that were invigorated with a hyper-detailed realism.

Artist unknown, Japanese, Meiji period. Patinated cast bronze vessel (center) and two phoenix-form candelabra (at sides), c. 1893. Original to the Nickerson Mansion. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Twenty-Four Light Chandelier

This twenty-four light chandelier, now seen in the Dining Room of the Driehaus Museum, was originally housed in the billiards room of Governor Milton Latham’s Thurlow Lodge in Menlo Park, California. The chandelier was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by the Herter Brothers, one of the leading cabinetmaking and decorating firms of the Gilded Age.  The firm’s clients were prominent members of the Gilded Age elite, including the Vanderbilts and the Palmers.  Herter Brothers remains one of the most celebrated cabinetmakers of the period.

Herter Brothers (American, 1864-1906), attributed. Chandelier, ca. 1872-73. Originally of Thurlow Lodge, Menlo Park, California. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Neo-Empire Sphinx Chairs

Designed by George A. Schastey to complement the interiors of the Drawing Room, these satinwood sphinx chairs were made in the Neo-Empire style and are original to the Nickerson Mansion. The Neo-Empire style derived from Napoleon’s victorious return from his Egyptian campaign in 1798. His success led to intense research and archaeological findings in Egypt. The fascination of Egyptian culture spread when Egyptian elements and themes such as sphinxes, scarabs, and winged lions, emerged in all aspects of fashion and the applied arts world.

George A. Schastey (American, 1839-1894). Neo-empire style armchair, ca. 1883. Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.