Sunday, July 14, 2013

18th-Century Interiors: A Closer Contemplation (Part One)

During my trip to Colonial Williamsburg a couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to catch one of the new curator-led tours of the Governor's Palace.  This new series of tours, offered nearly every day this summer in the late afternoon, provides the opportunity to see the grandest building in the colonial Virginian capitol through the eyes of the museum professionals who now help to preserve and present it.  The curators leading the tours range in expertise in everything from architecture to porcelain to musical instruments - and yes, in textiles as well! - so you can be sure to find a tour that caters to your personal interests.

Curator of Costumes and Textiles at Colonial Williamsburg, Linda Baumgarten,
leads a textiles-specific tour of the Governor's Palace.
Colonial Williamsburg, June 2013.

Hearing that Linda Baumgarten, curator of CW's collection of textiles and costumes, would be doing the tour the day I arrived, I made certain to secure my ticket early in the morning to ensure I wouldn't miss this unique opportunity.  Before going into the Palace, Baumgarten briefly explained the role of the curator in general, and the highlights of her specialty specifically.  Then, bringing us room to room as we moved through the building, she paused to point out and discuss individual items: curtains and blinds, bed hangings and rugs, wallpaper and wall coverings, fashion dolls and bedcovers.  It was fascinating to hear her converse about items I've seen numerous times, and I began to look at the minutiae of details that defined each and every room through different eyes.  Here's a little photo "essay" of some of my favorite little finds as I snapped away while she talked.

The residence of the Royal Governor was the most opulently decorated building in colonial Virginia. Indeed, so excessively extravagant did it seem to the colonists that they nicknamed it the "Governor's Palace," and it's easy to see why!

Colonial Williamsburg Governor's Palace
The cornice of the larger bedstead in one of the bedchambers is covered
in the same fabric from which the bed hangings are made.

Colonial Williamsburg Governor's Palace
As this room is interpreted as one belonging to the Governor's two eldest daughters,
a fashion doll and an embroidered pocket rest on the bedside table.

Colonial Williamsburg Governor's Palace
One method of fastening back bed curtains.

The young ladies' dressing table.


Details of a painted cornice on the bed in the next room.


You can see the system of rings and cords used to create the
draped effect of the bed curtains.

New crimson silk damask now covers the walls in the upper center room.

The Governor's private dressing room.

The ceiling of the Palace ballroom.

Can you see the seam in the carpet?  The carpet of the ballroom was woven
and shipped in strips from England and then sewn together when it was installed.


The gilt border is paper mache covered in 24k gold.


I adore the bold, bright colors of the ballroom and the supper room.
Baumgarten explained that it is not paint that provides this stunning color, but
wallpaper, which was extremely popular in these bold shades in the early 1770s.


Clicking on any of the images will bring you to their flickr home, where you can access them in larger sizes.  You can also find the full album from the Williamsburg trip here.


Decor To Adore said...

Truly brilliant post! I share your adoration for Williamsburg and received a private tour of the Thomas Everard house last year that you may enjoy.

Mr. Riggenbach said...

I'm having serious jealousy issues over this post. ;-) I'm really hoping they are still doing the curator lead tours this fall when we go back for a short visit (only 3 days this time instead of 6!).

Karen (the Mrs.)

Rebecca said...

Karen, our tour was completely full, so if these end up being successful, I imagine they'll continue them past the summer. I hope you're all able to catch one! It's a great idea, and I'd love to take a different one the next time I visit. There are so many little things there that you never notice until someone points them out to you! :-)

Margaret said...

Wow, really interesting :3

Rebecca said...

Wow! I'm so glad to see they continued to remodel the upstairs room! When I went last (about two years ago), the walls were white because they had just taken the original wallpaper off. It didn't look grand enough for the governor's palace, so I'm glad they added the damask. It looks beautiful!