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The Herter Brothers and Gilded Age Interior: The William H. Vanderbilt House

Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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One anonymous author writing in 1887 claimed that "every private residence ever before constructed in America was entirely eclipsed by the house of the American railway king, Mr. William H. Vanderbilt."  Indeed, the enormous Fifth Avenue mansion, completed in 1882 for the richest man in America, was not only the grandest and most sumptuous house in America of the time, but it was also the crowning achievement of Herter Brothers, the preeminent cabinetmakers and decorators of America’s Gilded Age.  The lecture chronicles these significant interiors (now destroyed), highlighting its place within Herter Brothers’ oeuvre.  At the same time, a number of recent and yet unpublished discoveries relating to this extraordinary commission is shared.

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Console from the drawing room of the William H Vanderbilt House: Herter Brothers (Active New York, 1864–1906)