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Experience the only museum in the world specializing in 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts.
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When James Buchanan Duke bought Rough Point from Princess Anastasia of Greece and Denmark (the former Mrs. William B. Leeds) in 1922, the Great Hall looked considerably different. It was dark wood from floorboards to ceiling rafters, with openings to the second floor through arches, balconies, and oriel windows — an appropriate "look" for the English manor style of the house as originally designed around 1890 for Frederick W. Vanderbilt by Boston architects Peabody & Stearns.
Horace Trumbauer, the Philadelphia architect whom Mr. Duke hired to renovate and enlarge the house, brought light and greater formality to the space with marble floors, molded plaster ceilings, an entire wall of windows facing the ocean, and an expansive space for hanging large works of art above newly made English oak paneling. Of all the rooms in the house, this one most closely preserves the late Gilded Age grandeur of the 1920s renovation, in large part because the three large Renaissance tapestries that Mr. Duke bought for Rough Point in 1923 from the New York art dealer Joseph Duveen still hang imposingly on its upper walls.
Like her father, Doris Duke used the Great Hall as an art gallery and hung in this space some of the most important Old Master paintings that she purchased in the 1960s and 1970s alongside paintings inherited from her parents. Of special note is the double or "friendship" portrait by Van Dyck on the far north wall, which Duke bought in 1963 and then hung opposite a Gainsborough portrait of Raphael Franco, a Jewish gem merchant, that her father purchased in London in 1910. Elsewhere in the room you see evidence of several other interests of Doris Duke as a collector and decorator, especially in the Chinese ceramics and the curiosity cabinet under Rough Point's very own "girl with a pearl earring" — the Portrait of a Young Woman by one of the most successful students of Rembrandt, the Dutch painter Ferdinand Bol.
Wingchairs in the William and Mary style
Covered Jar depicting a celebration of longevity by the Daoist Eight Immortals
Portrait of Mountjoy Blount, Earl of Newport and George, Lord Goring by Van Dyck
Portrait of Raphael Franco by Gainsborough
Infant Christ Asleep by Duquesnoy
Portrait of a Young Woman by Bol
Tapestry with scenes of amorous couples
These four wingchairs were recently reupholstered, and when the old fabric was removed, our curator and conservator found a surprise. What were thought to be 19th- or early 20th-century reproductions of a distinct 17th-century style of armchair, turned out to be mid 20th-century copies that are so poorly constructed under the upholstery, they might have been intended as props for the stage or a movie set. Certainly they look great in and are appropriately scaled for the Great Hall at Rough Point, where they add a bit of whimsy and flair. Perhaps that is all that mattered to Doris Duke as well!
Doris Duke had a great fondness for antique ceramics and even went to the trouble of learning how to properly repair them. This piece probably appealed to her both for its complicated technique, known as fahua -- with an outer layer of turquoise blue openwork over a solid container -- and for its subject matter, the Eight Immortals of Chinese mythology celebrating the birthday of the god of longevity in the immortal land, depicted with pine trees and clouds over waves.
This is one of two double portraits painted by Anthony Van Dyck for the two men depicted here, one for each, commemorating their friendship perhaps in anticipation of a lengthy separation. Doris Duke bought the portrait at auction in 1963 with another Van Dyck portrait, Charles, Prince of Wales, the Future Charles II, which hangs in the Stair Hall of Rough Point. It was her first major purchase of Old Master paintings and the perfect complement to her father's collection of 18th-century portraits by British painters, such as Gainsborough and Raeburn, who were inspired by the example and fame of Van Dyck. Although Flemish by birth and artistic training, Van Dyck became the court painter to England's King Charles I and one of the most celebrated portraitists of the 17th century on both sides of the English Channel.
James Buchanan Duke purchased this portrait of Jewish gem merchant Raphael Franco at auction in London in 1910. From 1912 to 1957, when Doris Duke brought it to Rough Point, it held a place of great prominence on the 5th Avenue wall of the Library of Duke House (1 East 78th Street) in New York City, opposite the full-length portrait of Nanaline Duke, by James Shannon, which now hangs in the Stairway at Rough Point. Gainsborough shows Franco as a gentleman who has "arrived" in London society of the time, wearing a finely tailored yellow satin suit, an expensive pocket watch and silver inkstand displayed on the desk in front of him, and one of the most recognizable London landmarks, the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, in the background. The identity of the sitter is subtly revealed as the addressee of the letter that sits on the desk to the left.
This intricately decorated chest was originally used to display special personal treasures, such as natural history specimens, gemstones, and small souvenirs from travels. Several years ago, Rough Point curatorial staff were delighted to discover a secret compartment hidden inside, intended for safely storing documents. Disappointingly, it was empty but it is interesting to contemplate what used to be there . . .
Ferdinand Bol studied in Amsterdam with Rembrandt from 1636 to 1641 and later became one of the most successful portraitists in The Netherlands. The sitter of this portrait is unknown. Her fanciful costume differs considerably from the usual somber attire of the wealthy Dutch merchant class of the time and could signal that the subject is meant to be read as either a historical or biblical character or an allegorical figure. The abundance of pearl jewelry associates her, according to the symbolism of the day, with the virtue of purity and often can be found in portraits commemorating a betrothal or wedding. Doris Duke purchased the painting at auction in New York in 1971.
Shown here is one of a set of three tapestries bought by James B. Duke in 1923, shortly after purchasing Rough Point. Because they are placed so high on the walls and their wool and silk threads have faded, identifying the subjects can be a little tricky. All three tapestries have scenes that evoke imagined pleasures of the nobility in Renaissance Europe, including couples strolling and riding horses surrounded by musicians, a coronation, and a royal engagement -- subjects that are no less entertaining for us today (think Victoria, The Crown, and Meghan and Harry) than they were for owners of drafty castles in the 16th century and then again for early 20th-century builders of Bellevue Avenue mansions.