After the American Revolution, George Washington resolved that he would no longer “send to England (from whence I formerly had all my goods) for anything I can get upon tolerable terms elsewhere.” He instead turned to the United States’ greatest ally, France, where he found the furniture, ceramics, textiles, and decorative objects to be “very elegant” and “much admired.”  

This symposium will examine George and Martha Washington’s adoption of the French taste, as a catalyst to further explore the complex interchange of culture, decorative styles, and objects in the French-Atlantic World. 

Join leading curators and historians as they examine the diffusion of French style, from the Ancien Régime through the French Revolution and French Empire, and from Paris to London, Philadelphia, Port-au-Prince, and New Orleans, to 20th-century Los Angeles.  

In-Person Tickets

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The Mount Vernon Symposium is endowed by the generous support of The Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, Lucy S. Rhame, The Felicia Fund, The Sachem Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mauran IV.
Add to Calendar 06/02/2023 06/04/2023 America/New_York The 2023 Mount Vernon Symposium

After the American Revolution, George Washington resolved that he would no longer “send to England (from whence I formerly had all my goods) for anything I can get upon tolerable terms elsewhere.” He instead turned to the United States’ greatest ally, France, where he found the furniture, ceramics, textiles, and decorative objects to be “very elegant” and “much admired.”  

This symposium will examine George and Martha Washington’s adoption of the French taste, as a catalyst to further explore the complex interchange of culture, decorative styles, and objects in the French-Atlantic World. 

Join leading curators and historians as they examine the diffusion of French style, from the Ancien Régime through the French Revolution and French Empire, and from Paris to London, Philadelphia, Port-au-Prince, and New Orleans, to 20th-century Los Angeles.  

In-Person Tickets

MembersGeneral PubliC

 

Virtual Tickets

Get Virtual Tickets

 

The Mount Vernon Symposium is endowed by the generous support of The Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, Lucy S. Rhame, The Felicia Fund, The Sachem Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mauran IV.
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Cost

In-Person
$400 for General Public
$375 for Members and Donors
Includes all Lectures, Meals, and Tours

Virtual: Watch in real-time or through July 4 (30 days after the event)
$40 General Public

"Very elegant & much admired": Decorative Arts in the French Atlantic World

All lectures take place in the David M. Rubenstein Leadership Hall within the Washington Library. The schedule is subject to change.

 

1:00-6:00 pm

Symposium Registration, Bookout Reception Hall

1:30 pm

 Welcome and Introductions

1:45 pm

The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne: From its Creation to Revolutionary Sales

Stéphane Castelluccio

The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne was the administration in charge of furnishing the apartments of the members of the royal family in the residences of the French sovereign. King Henry IV created it in 1604 as part of his policy to reorganize the kingdom after the Wars of Religion. This talk will present the management, exercised by only three different families during a century and a half, as well as the functioning of this administration which took an increasing importance throughout the 18th century. It will explain the changes in its organization during the Revolution, and end with the reasons, principles and organization of the revolutionary sales of the Crown's furniture, decided by the new Republic from 1793.

2:45 pm

Amy Hudson Henderson 

3:45 pm

Break

4:00 pm

Adam T. Erby

5:00 pm

Henry Auguste: A Goldsmith in Revolutionary Paris

Iris Moon

This talk explores the unlikely career trajectory of the Parisian goldsmith Henry Auguste (1759-1816) during the French Revolution, drawing on new research published in Luxury after the Terror. Crafty, wily, and untrustworthy, but obviously talented with a hammer and chisel, Auguste started off as an apprentice to his well-known goldsmith father, who worked for Louis XVI. Beyond the French court, Auguste acquired a number of prestigious clients, including the British connoisseur William Beckford, for whom he fashioned an ewer made out of pure gold. Just as the volatile politics of the French Revolution sought to overturn the values of the Ancien Régime in favor of new ones, Auguste sought to refashion himself as more than a goldsmith during a moment of tremendous opportunity—and great risk. 

6:30 pm

Reception

7:15 pm

Dinner, Ford Orientation Center

Saturday, June 4

7:30 am

Continental Breakfast, Bookout Reception Hall

8:45 am

Welcome and Introductions

9:00 am

Emerging Scholars' Panel

10:00 am

Break

10:15 am

Revolutionary Things

Ashli C. White

During the late eighteenth century, a wide range of objects associated with the American, French, and Haitian revolutions crisscrossed the ocean.  Furniture and ceramics; clothing and accessories; maps, prints, and public amusements—all circulated among diverse actors who wrestled with the political implications of these items.  In this presentation we will examine the unique ways that transatlantic revolutionary things shaped how people understood contested concepts like equality, freedom, and solidarity.  And, we will explore how these objects became a means through which individuals—enslaved and free, women and men, poor and elite—promoted, and sometimes tried to thwart, the realization of these ideals on the ground. 

11:15 am

À la française: Designing French North America, 1700-1820

Philippe Halbert

At its height, New France extended from eastern Canada, across the Great Lakes, and down the Mississippi River to Louisiana. Although its population remained small, French North America was no less dynamic in terms of artistic originality or creative output. Even after New France's fall in 1763, areas of French settlement held fast to creole syntheses of Gallic aesthetics and vernacular tradition. This presentation will introduce a cross-section of objects and buildings whose stories reveal the vibrant legacies of French cultural identity as it took root in North America before 1800.

12:15 pm

Lunch, Founders' Terrace

1:45 pm

An American in Paris: Walt Disney and France

Wolf Burchard

Walt Disney was about to turn 17 when he first set foot in France in December 1918. The buildings, the art and the atmosphere had a lasting impact on the animated world he would go on to create. Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, an exhibition shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Wallace Collection in London and the Huntington Art Gallery in Pasadena, brought together the seemingly disparate worlds of 20th-century hand-drawn animation and 18th-century decorative arts, which upon closer inspection reveal remarkable similarities. Wolf Burchard will relate how the exhibition explored Disney’s fascination with European art and the impact it had on the studio’s output, especially the three French fairytales retold in hand-drawn animation: Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Beauty and the Beast (1991).

2:45 pm

Break

3:15 pm

Helen Jacobsen

4:15 pm

James Monroe’s Use of French Furnishings in the White House and the Restoration of the Bellangé Suite

Melissa Naulin

Following its burning during the War of 1812, the President’s House required almost all new furnishings before it could reopen for President James Monroe’s use in 1817. Relying on his extensive knowledge of fashionable home goods gained through his two European diplomatic appointments, Monroe worked to secure a large number of these new furnishings from Paris. My talk will focus on these government-purchased French goods, many of which remain amongst the most-treasured objects in the White House collection. I will also detail the recent effort to restore the furniture suite made by Pierre Antoine Bellangé and purchased for Monroe’s “large oval room” (today’s Blue Room) to its original splendor. 

5:45 pm

Reception

7:00 pm

Dinner

Sunday, June 5

9:00 am

Continental Breakfast, Bookout Reception Hall

9:30 am

From West to East: Huguenot Craft Communities in London’s Soho and Spitalfields

Tessa Murdock

Drawing on research undertaken for her recent publication, Tessa will speak about the formation of Huguenot artisan communities in Soho and Spitalfields. Leading personalities, include engraver Simon Gribelin, resident in West London who married into the Spitalfields based Mettayer family. The complex history of the Courtauld family, established in West London, gravitates from silversmithing in Soho and the City to textile production in Spitalfields and beyond. Craft communities centred on conformist and non-conformist French speaking churches and were gradually assimilated into Anglican churches. Huguenot refugees developed mutual support systems, friendly societies, the French Hospital which still flourishes as almshouses and the Westminster French Protestant Charity School. These Huguenot charities document the contribution of Huguenot craftsmen and women to British culture.

10:15 am

Peter Kenny

11:00 am

Break

11:15
am

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Material Creation of an Imperial Legacy

Alexandra Deutsch

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (1785 -1879) is often remembered for her short, but remarkable marriage in 1803 to Napoleon's youngest brother, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte. Although their mésalliance resulted in divorce, their union set her and future generations of American Bonapartes on a path that allied them with France and an imperial legacy. Drawing from thousands of documents and a collection of more than 600 objects associated with the Bonapartes, this richly illustrated lecture charts the history of Elizabeth's long life during which she meticulously created and documented a material world tethered to France. From her fashion to her silver, jewels and furniture, Elizabeth's self-presentation proclaimed her French connection. Her obsessive documentation of her possessions reveals a fascinating and complex narrative that spans multiple generations and reaches far beyond Baltimore.

12:00 pm

Symposium Adjourns

 

Speaker Biographies

Alexandra Deutsch

Alexandra Deutsch is the John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections at the Winterthur Museum. She leads Winterthur’s Collections Division that includes curatorial, conservation, registration, exhibitions, estate history, interpretation and programming. She has also worked as Vice-President of Collections and Interpretation and Chief Curator at the Maryland Center for History and Culture. Her publications include Spectrum of Fashion (2019), Structure and Perspective: David Brewster Explores Maryland’s Social Landscape (2017) and Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (2016).

Iris Moon

Iris Moon is an assistant curator in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the Met, she participated in the reinstallation of the British Galleries. She is the author of Luxury after the Terror and co-editor with Richard Taws of Time, Media, and Visuality in Post-Revolutionary France; a new book on Wedgwood will be out this year. Alongside curatorial work, she teaches at Cooper Union.  

Tessa Murdoch

Tessa Murdoch is an Associate Research Professor in Cultural History at the University of Buckingham, UK. She has worked at the Museum of London and at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her recent publications include Europe Divided: Huguenot Refugee Art and Culture, and as a consultant, Great Irish Households: Inventories from the long eighteenth century. She advises the England’s National Trust and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, is a member of Arts Council England, and currently serves as Chair of the Trustees of the Huguenot Museum, Rochester, Kent. She is a member of the Contemporary Craft Committee at the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

Ashli White

Ashli White is associate professor of history at the University of Miami.  She is the author of Revolutionary Things: Material Culture and Politics in the Late Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Yale UP, 2023) and Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic (Johns Hopkins UP, 2010).  She was the associate curator and co-author of the catalog for Antillean Visions, a 2018 exhibition at the Lowe Art Museum that charted over 500 years of Caribbean maps.

Adam T. Erby

Adam T. Erby is Curator of Fine and Decorative Arts at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, where he oversees the institution’s fine and decorative arts collections, historic interiors, special exhibitions, and conservation program. He is currently at work on the reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection and several room restorations. Adam was the principle author of The General in the Garden: George Washington’s Landscape at Mount Vernon; and he curated special exhibition Gardens & Groves: George Washington’s Landscape at Mount Vernon, as well as the recently opened Mount Vernon: The Story of an American Icon

Wolf Burchard

Wolf Burchard is Associate Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the author of Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts. Prior to joining The Met, he held curatorial positions at the National Trust and the Royal Collection. He read history of art and architecture at the Courtauld Institute of Art, from which he holds an MA and PhD.

Philippe Halbert

Philippe Halbert is Interim Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. A graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, he received his Ph.D. in history of art from Yale University in 2022. He has held curatorial positions at institutions including Colonial Williamsburg, the Louvre, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

Melissa Naulin

Melissa Naulin is the Associate Curator of Decorative Arts for the White House, where she has served since 2003. Prior to coming to the White House, she held curatorial positions at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Winterthur Museum, and the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y. She holds a Masters of Art degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture/University of Delaware and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College. She writes and lectures frequently on White House topics.

Stéphane Castelluccio

Professor Stéphane Castelluccio is director of research at the CNRS André Chastel Center UMR 8150 in Paris, France. He specializes in the history of royal residences, interior decorations, furniture, art collections and the luxury trade in France in the 17th and 18th centuries. He has published more than a hundred articles and fourteen books, including, Garde-Meuble de la Couronne from the 16th century to the Revolution.

Accomodation

The Fred W. Smith National Library has a partnership with the Hampton Inn & Suites Mt. Vernon/Belvoir-Alexandria South Area, the closest hotel to the Mount Vernon estate. Book a stay for nights between June 2-4 to take advantage of these exclusive, special rates. Call the hotel directly at (703) 619-7026, and mention the Group Code MVS.

Contact Information

Stephen A. McLeod
Director, Library Programs

smcleod@mountvernon.org
703.799.8686

Parking

Guests should park in Mount Vernon visitor parking lots, and enter the Library via the pedestrian gate near the four-way traffic intersection (across from the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant).

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