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The collections at NRF’s Rough Point Museum offer an interesting combination of the Gilded Age tastes of Doris Duke’s parents, what she purchased as a complement to the items she inherited, and what she left in her closets and attics when she died in 1993. Our strengths, therefore, are in 18th-century British portraiture, French and continental furniture and other decorative arts also from the 18th-century, 16th-century Flemish tapestries, Chinese ceramics, and mid to later 20th-century couture fashion, but we also have several spectacular outliers. Below are highlights from different areas of the collection.
Portrait of Caroline Spencer, Fourth Duchess of Marlborough by Reynolds
Embroidered panel with the story of Esther
Cigar storage case
Louis XVI carved, gilded, and polychromed armchair stamped Falconet
Portrait of Charles, Prince of Wales, later Charles II, by Van Dyck
Near Reef of Norman’s Woe by Lane
Wicker Hat by Christian Dior
12 armchairs and a settee with tapestry seats featuring Fables of La Fontaine
Study for Decorative panel with two hounds by Oudry
Portrait of Mountjoy Blount, Earl of Newport and George, Lord Goring by Van Dyck
Jeune fille blonde cousant (Young blonde girl sewing)
Portrait of Thomas Freeman, Jr., Esq. by Hoare
Portrait of Mrs. Charlotte Denison by Hoppner
Tapestry with proclamation scene
Series of Scipio tapestries
Portrait bust of Julius Caesar in bronze
Pair of musical automatons by John Henry Cox
Portrait of Lady Fitzroy, nee Mundy by Hoppner
Portrait of Raphael Franco by Gainsborough
Tiffany swan centerpiece
Molded plaster ceiling with heroes of the ancient world
Infant Christ Asleep by Duquesnoy
20 panels of hand painted Chinese wallpaper
Large Cizhou baluster jar
Wingchairs in the William and Mary style
Portrait of Charles Oldfield Bowles by Hoppner
Portrait of Nanaline Holt Inman Duke
Dutch Rococo marquetry chairs
Silk Velvet Jacket by Balenciaga
Pantsuit by André Courrèges
Portrait bust of Augustus in bronze
Beauvais tapestry with the arms of France and Navarre
“Grotto” style piano stool
Portrait of James Buchanan Duke by John Da Costa
Pair of wrought iron console tables with gilding
Portrait of a Young Woman by Bol
Della Robbia fruit baskets
Carved and Gilded Rococo Double Doors
Pantsuit by Emilio Pucci
Portrait of Doris Duke at 11 years old
The Visit of the Stadtholder Prince Frederik to the Fleet of the States General at Dordrecht, 1646
Study for Decorative panel with barbet by Oudry
Portrait of the Marchioness of Wellesley by Hoppner
Tapestry with scenes of amorous couples
Desk and bookcase
Nymph Attributed to Clodion
Pair of Shoes by Jay Thorpe
Pair of cloisonné candlesticks
Covered Jar depicting a celebration of longevity by the Daoist Eight Immortals
Famille Rose covered jars with phoenix and cranes among peonies
This striking portrait of Caroline Spencer, a distant relative of Winston Churchill, in her ermine-lined peeress robes was a favorite not only of Doris Duke but also apparently of its painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who kept it in his personal gallery until his death in 1796. Doris Duke purchased it at auction in New York in 1970, and in hanging it alongside her parents' full-length female portraits by Hoppner, with their somber dark tones, clearly asserted a preference for more fanciful costumes and brighter colors that can be seen in many of the other pieces she added to her parents' collection at Rough Point.
The Wilke Manufacturing Company also made refrigerators around the turn of the twentieth century that were covered in porcelain tiles, just as on this freestanding cigar case, which was likely owned by James Buchanan Duke well before Doris Duke was born. The design was awarded a patent in 1902, but some version of the case had been in production for several years prior to that. In the patent application, a smaller case with a single door is shown, but not surprisingly, James B. Duke owned the deluxe two-door model.
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 . . .
This armchair, also called a fauteuil, belongs to a suite of five pieces purchased by Doris Duke in 1960 that, according to the auction catalogue, came from the collection of the Duchesse de Montmorency at the Chateau of Valencay in the Loire Valley. Made at the beginning of the Louis XVI period, this piece displays some Italian characteristics, but is marked with the name of Falconet, a royal cabinetmaker in Paris. The painted and gilded surfaces are original. The embroidered yellow silk upholstery dates to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century and is an amazing survival from this period.
Portrait of a young Charles, Prince of Wales (1630-1685), in court costume. Immediately after the execution of England's King Charles I in 1649, this painting served as the model for a widely circulated piece of Royalist propaganda -- an engraved portrait of the prince asserting his rightful place as heir to his father's throne as Charles II. This is one of two paintings by Van Dyck, the court painter to Charles I, that Doris Duke bought for Rough Point in 1963.
This suite of Louis XVI tapestry upholstered furniture featured prominently in the Drawing Room of the New York City house of the Duke family at 1 East 78th Street. It was purchased for that house from the renowned Duveen Brothers. On each of the seats and backs is a scene from the Fables collected by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) in the late 17th century, including the familiar characters of the Fox and the Crane, the Lion and the Mouse, the Hawk and the Nightingale, the Dog and his Shadow, and the Bat, the Bush, and the Duck.
This and a second Oudry work of the same size that also hangs on the second floor landing at Rough Point were recently discovered to be preparatory sketches for paintings commissioned by Samuel Jacques Bernard, the comte de Coubert (1686-1753), for the dining room of his grand hôtel on the rue du Bac in Paris, built between 1740 and 1742. The full-scale paintings were removed in 1887 when the hôtel was dismantled and its decorations sold. They are now in the Museés des arts décoratifs, Strasbourg.
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.
This portrait originally hung in Batsford Park, the ancestral home of Thomas Freeman, Jr., Esq. (d. 1788), a member of British Parliament from Steyning in West Sussex. The artist, Prince Hoare, is not a household name by any means, partly because he left painting early on to pursue a career in literature and theatre criticism. He was, however, an accomplished painter and a good friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds who painted the Portrait of Mrs. Thomas Freeman, Jr. (1758-1782), which originally hung alongside the Rough Point painting. The pair were separated when the contents of Batsford Park were sold at auction in 1919. Doris Duke's father, James Buchanan Duke, bought the portrait from the dealer Knoedler & Co. in New York in November 1924.
This full-length portrait was among the original furnishings, paintings, and decorative arts purchased by James B. and Nanaline Duke for their new house at 1 East 78th Street as it neared completion in 1912, which was also the year that Doris Duke was born.
One of a pair of early sixteenth-century Flemish tapestries purchased for Rough Point in 1923. When Doris Duke closed and emptied the house of its contents in 1954, these tapestries went to Duke University where they were hung for display in the main Library. They were returned to Rough Point in 1957 and since then have hung at either end of the dining table, which Doris Duke positioned to take full advantage of the ocean views from the eastern facing windows.
Roman general Scipio Africanus (larger figure in gold armor at the left) was a favorite example of mercy in warfare in Renaissance and Baroque art. During the siege of New Carthage, Scipio returned a beautiful female prisoner (possibly the figure seated at right) to her fiance. For this generous act he received a ransom (the gold vessels and armor shown here at the left), which he returned to the couple as a wedding present. In return, the families of the couple pledged their allegiance to Rome. There are three other tapestries in the Stair Hall from this set, which Doris Duke bought in 1958 for Rough Point.
The bust and the pedestal were purchased separately by Doris Duke in 1962 from the sale of the contents of The Elms, the Bellevue Avenue mansion owned by the Berwind family and designed by Horace Trumbauer.
This pair of whimsical mechanical pieces (only one is shown here) were made in England for export to the Far East market. To fit English perceptions of Asian aesthetics, a pagoda shape includes animals exotic to Westerners such as elephants and ostriches. When operating, the devices play one of six tunes, and ships and horseback riders parade through painted backdrops revolving behind glass panels in the base. The automatons were acquired by Doris Duke in Bangkok, Thailand, in the 1960s.
Lady Frances Mundy Fitzroy (1773-1797) came from the East-Midlands of England and was the mother of Sir Augustus Charles Fitzroy (1796-1858), who served as Governor-General of British colonies in Canada and Australia. John Hoppner was a favorite painter of Doris Duke's parents. By the time they purchased this half-length portrait in 1923, they already owned four other Hoppner portraits (two others also now in this room and two on the Main Staircase). This portrait remained in the artist's studio after his death, which suggests the sitter might have died before the portrait was completed.
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.
Central painted dial with Roman numerals within a beaded frame and sunburst surround.
Made by Tiffany in 1874 and exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, the silver swan was a latecomer to the collection of Doris Duke. She bought it at auction in 1988, and was so fond of it that she kept it with her on her annual cycle of journeys to homes in Honolulu, Beverly Hills, Newport, New York, and Hillsborough, New Jersey. Given that this might suggest a late-in-life turn to the eccentric, it is worth noting that in the same year, Doris acquired her two Bactrian camels, Princess and Baby.
Within elaborately shaped medallions are portrait busts of Joshua, Hector, and Alexander the Great.
Doris Duke bought two lots of Chinese wallpaper at auction in 1958 and 1959 and had them pieced together to create 20 panels that would fit the Music Room walls at Rough Point. This particular panel was put together from three widths of paper that once hung in Clyne Castle, an eighteenth-century Welsh country house near Swansea. It is likely the paper was removed when the house was given to Swansea University in the 1950s and converted to a dormitory.
When Doris Duke bought this early Chinese jar in 1955, she expressed a shared passion with her parents for Asian ceramics, but at the same time signaled a departure from their narrowly focused interest in later eighteenth-century export ware. As a result, Rough Point is filled with a wonderful range of Chinese pottery from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The distinct monochrome floral decoration of this jar was achieved by cutting away a layer of dark brown glaze to create a contrasting lighter background from the unglazed stoneware body. This is a technique associated with workshops in Northern China from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries named for Cizhou (now called Ci County or Cixian), a prefecture in southern Hebei, which was one of the main centers of production.
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!
Charles Oldfield Bowles (1785-1862) was the son of an amateur painter and musician Oldfield Bowles (1739-1810) of North Aston, Oxfordshire. This was the first of five John Hoppner paintings owned by James B. Duke. He purchased it in 1908 not long after his marriage in 1907 to Nanaline Holt Inman, a widower from Macon, Georgia, who had a son, Walker, of about the same age as the sitter when Hoppner captured his likeness.
From 1912 to 1957, this grand portrait of Doris Duke's mother, Nanaline Holt Inman Duke (1871-1962), hung in the library of the Duke family's residence in New York City at 1 East 78th Street. It was moved to Newport in the late 1950s when Doris Duke gave the New York house to New York University to house its graduate art history program, and it has hung in the stairway of Rough Point ever since, althought.
The portrait was made in 1907 around the time that Nanaline, the widow of wealthy Atlanta-based cotton merchant, William Inman, married tobacco and energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke. At that time she had a twelve-year old son, Walker Inman (1894-1955), and in 1912, her only daughter, Doris, was born.
A set of four chairs, each part ornately shaped and decoratively inlaid with foliage, urns, and flowers. Doris Duke bought these chairs in New York at auction in 1972.
According to the records of the Beauvais manufactory, this tapestry was woven between September 1740 and May 1741. The design is based on a painting by Francois Boucher now in the Palais de Justice in Rouen, France, and it is the only version of the tapestry made from this pattern or "cartoon." It proclaims in a splendid, illusionistic composition of angels floating on clouds within an ermine-lined tent against a fleur-de-lis background the sovereignty of King Louis XV, who is symbolized by the arms of France and Navarre. Doris Duke bought the tapestry in New York in 1965 from the estate auction of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice, whose Newport residence, Miramar, was just a few houses up Bellevue Avenue from Rough Point. Perhaps Doris had known it and grown fond of it long before the auction from visits to her neighbor!
Revolving shell form seat on cabriole legs with hairy paw feet, commonly called a grotto stool.
James Buchanan Duke (1856-1925) was the father of Doris Duke and benefactor of Duke University. His fortune derived largely from electric power and tobacco, a connection discreetly referenced by the cigar in the sitter's right hand. There is a near twin to this portrait hanging in the Duke University Libraries alongside a posthumous portrait of Washington Duke, James B. Duke's father. The Duke University portraits date to 1924, as does the Rough Point portrait, and were likely commissioned to commemorate a $40 million donation made by James B. Duke to the Duke Endowment that same year. The Duke Endowment supported several North Carolina colleges, including Trinity College in Durham, which would later be renamed Duke University after Washington Duke.
This pair of tables is in the style of later 18th-century French Louis XVI wall consoles, but they were made in the 19th century to match the scale and opulence of Gilded Age mansions. Their design and construction, with gilt metal decoration applied to wrought iron bases, would have been a perfect match for a grand marble entry hall with a sweeping stairway balustrade made from the same materials. Originally part of the furnishings of the New York mansion where Doris Duke grew up, the tables have been a fixture of the Solarium at Rough Point since the late 1950s.
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.
Doris Duke purchased this pair of whimsical earthenware fruit baskets, which include lizards, frogs, and insects in their decoration, in 1960, and they have occupied a place of honor in the Dining Room ever since. Their colorful glazes complement so nicely the colors of the Flemish tapestries that they are seen against. The baskets were borrowed recently by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston for their exhibition, Della Robbia: Sculpting with Color in Renaissance Florence, which ran from August 9 to December 4, 2016. The exhibition label for the baskets is reprinted here:
"Baskets of fruit were produced in considerable quantity by the Della Robbia shops. These arrays of colorful and plentiful produce, gathered into wicker baskets represent the abundance of nature, but arguably outdo nature itself: while real fruits will ripen and spoil, these glazed terracotta fruits will endure forever. They relate to ancient painted images of the baskets of fruit which were prepared as gifts to welcome guests into one's home - signs of hospitality that will never fade. Their appeal was so lasting that later sculptors emulated the Della Robbias' designs, creating new versions like these."
This pair of double doors (only one set shown here) and another pair just like them originally adorned the Golden Gallery in the Palazzo Carrega-Cataldi, now the Chamber of Commerce in Genoa. They were purchased in Italy and brought to New York by the architect Stanford White in the 1890s. One pair, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Rogers Fund, 1991.307a, b), stayed with White until his death in 1906. The Rough Point pair were destined for the ballroom of the Fifth Avenue mansion of William C. Whitney, which White was renovating at the time. Doris Duke bought the doors at the sale of the contents of another Newport mansion, Bois Dore, in 1977. Just as they were used in the Whitney Mansion, Duke used the doors in Rough Point as freestanding screens. One thing she changed, however, was the orientation of the hinges, leaving one pair of doors (the pair you see here) misaligned.
Doris Duke sat for this portrait in 1923, the year that Rough Point was being renovated for the Duke Family by Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer. The artist, John Da Costa, had been commissioned around the same time to paint formal portraits of her father, the tobacco and energy tycoon James B. Duke, and grandfather, Washington Duke, after whom Duke University was renamed in the 1920s.
This marine scene from the Golden Age of Dutch painting was among the last works of art that Doris Duke added to the collection at Rough Point. She purchased it at auction in New York in 1985.
Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland was regarded as one of the great Parisian beauties of her day. She is shown here with two sons, Richard and Henry, in a portrait that was destined for India, where her husband, Richard, 2nd Earl of Mornington and Marquess of Wellesley, was serving as Governor-General. It hung in Government House in Calcutta until 1806, when it returned along with the Marquess to England. The portrait stayed with members of the Wellesley family through the 19th century and was bought in 1923 by the Dukes for their New York City house.
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.
Prominent in the decoration of these two large pricket style candlesticks (only one is shown here) are red bats confronting the Chinese shou character. Because the Chinese word for bat is pronounced the same way as the word for happiness, and red is the color of joy, red bats in Chinese art can be interpreted as symbols of happiness. Given her deep interest in and knowledge of Asian art, it's possible that this symbolism added to the appeal of the candlesticks when Doris Duke bought them at auction in New York in 1975.
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 pair of finely painted covered jars represent just a small portion of the large collection of Chinese Export ceramics that Doris Duke's parents had collected for their New York City residence. The body of the jars are elaborately decorated with phoenix and cranes amid large blossoming peonies and rock work, with fish, lotus, and other more abstract decoration at the shoulder and rim. The similarly decorated domed covers have painted and gilded finials in the shape of guardian lions. From historic photographs we know that from ca. 1912 to 1957 these jars were displayed alongside the 18th-century tapestry upholstered furniture in the Drawing Room of the Dukes' New York City house, just as they are today in the Music Room at Rough Point.