An Aristocracy of Wealth: New York’s Gilded Age Society through the Decorative Arts

Photo from MALKIN LECTURE: An Aristocracy of Wealth on August 26, 2014

December 1, 2014

The Gilded Years of the late 19th century were a vital and glamorous era in New York City. Families of great fortune sought to demonstrate their new status by building vast Fifth Avenue mansions filled with precious objects and important painting collections and hosting elaborate fêtes and balls. This is the moment of Mrs. Astor’s “Four Hundred,” the rise of the Vanderbilts and Morgans, Maison Worth, Tiffany & Co., Duveen, and Allard. Old and new wealth competed in excess expenditures, and members of our own Seventh Regiment (Van Rensselaers, Livingstons, Kemps, Harrimans, Belmonts, and Stewarts) were some of the best examples. Curator Jeannine Falino surveys the social and cultural history of these years through the lens of the architecture, furniture, fashion, and jewelry of the time.

Jeannine Falino is an independent curator and museum consultant. She was formerly the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Currently she is adjunct curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, where she will open What Would Mrs. Webb Do? A Founder’s Vision in September. She is also co-curator of the Museum of the City of New York exhibition entitled Gilded New York: Design, Fashion & Society. Falino was co-curator for the major survey exhibition entitled Crafting Modernism: Mid-Century American Art and Design (Museum of Arts and Design, 2011), lead author and co-editor of Silver of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Vol. 3 (2008), guest co-curator for Artistic Luxury: Fabergé-Tiffany-Lalique (Cleveland Museum of Art, 2008), co-author and co-editor for American Luxury: Jewels from the House of Tiffany (Antique Collectors Club, 2008), and curator for Edge of the Sublime: Enamels by Jamie Bennett (Fuller Craft Museum, 2008).

Painting: Michele Gordigiani



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