Rockefeller rooms find homes

Bedroom to go to Virginia and dressing room to go to the Metropolitan

NEW YORK. The bedroom and furnishings of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller’s West 54th Street townhouse have been donated by the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the dressing room and its contents given to the Metropolitan Museum.

The city museum deaccessioned the Aesthetic Movement interiors, which had been on display for 70 years, because their height exceeds the dimensions of recently renovated exhibition floors (The Art Newspaper, March 2008, p11). Director Susan Henshaw Jones considers the transfers a “triumph” in that “three museums collaborated and found a way to ensure that these treasures are preserved and interpreted for future generations.” She says that MCNY paid $350,000 to dismantle the rooms and the recipients contributed to shipping. She notes that deaccession was allowed by the deed of gift from Rockefeller’s son.

The American Renaissance dressing room, designed by George A. Schastey & Co of New York, will become part of the Metropolitan’s 20-room chronicle of historic American interiors now undergoing reinstallation. The Virginia Museum will install the bedroom, with its suite of Italianate ebonised furniture and Turkish sitting niche, in a new wing opening in 2010.

MCNY selected the Virginia museum in part because Rockefeller purchased the house from Richmond native Arabella Worsham, who oversaw its redecoration in 1881. John D. Rockefeller Jr demolished the house after his father’s death in 1937—the land was transferred to the Museum of Modern Art—and gave the two ensembles to the MCNY and a Moorish smoking room to the Brooklyn Museum, where it remains on view.

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