Exhibitions/ Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age/ Exhibition Galleries

Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age

At The Met Fifth Avenue
December 15, 2015–June 5, 2016

Exhibition Galleries

This exhibition is presented in three parts: the opulent Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room, a rare surviving commission by the New York–based cabinetmaker and interior decorator George A. Schastey (American, 1839–1894); a gallery with works by Schastey's best-known competitor, Herter Brothers; and a gallery dedicated to Schastey's work.

Permanent Installation

Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room

The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room, a new permanent installation, is a jewel box of a room and a quintessential expression of the Aesthetic movement, which was in vogue during the late 1870s and early 1880s. The movement stressed the artistic and embraced an amalgamation of different styles, as seen here in the flat, stylized, natural ornamentation in combination with carved flourishes in the Renaissance style. The room comes from the 4 West 54th Street home of Arabella Worsham (ca. 1850–1924), mistress (and later, wife) of railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington. She commissioned George A. Schastey (American, 1839–1894) to decorate the house in 1881.

The private room, intended solely for Worsham's use, is a totally cohesive artistic interior with intricate woodwork, a built-in wardrobe, two full-length dressing mirrors, and a vanity en suite with a delicate dressing table, dressing glass, and chairs. Careful study of the ornate marquetry ornamentation—executed in satinwood and purpleheart with mother-of-pearl inlays—reveals a multitude of seashell and pearl motifs that reference Worsham's great love of pearl jewelry, while depictions of hand mirrors, scissors, hair combs, brooches, necklaces, and earrings suggest the dressing room's intended purpose. The room exemplifies the work of Schastey's interior decorating firm and his close relationship with his patrons.

In 1884, Worsham sold the house, complete with furnishings, to John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937), who made few changes to it. Donated to the Museum of the City of New York after Rockefeller's death in 1937, the room has found new life at the Metropolitan Museum, where it was recently conserved and firmly identified as the work of Schastey. It now takes its place within a suite of American interiors arranged in historical sequence.

See this gallery on the Museum Map.

Above: George A. Schastey & Co. (1873–97). Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room, New York City, 1881–82. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of The Museum of the City of New York, 2008 (2009.226.1–19a–f)

Related Podcast

Listen to an evocative podcast written by Nate DiMeo, creator of the podcast series The Memory Palace, that shares some of the most luscious details of Arabella Worsham's glamorous life, as well as some of the secrets she may have guarded.

Written and Produced by Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace
Musical score by Jimmy LaValle of the Album Leaf
Executive Producer, Limor Tomer, General Manager of Concerts & Lectures, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Commissioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This podcast is made possible by the Clara Lloyd-Smith Weber Fund.

Selected Artworks

Side chairs

Herter Brothers (1864–1906), Pair of side chairs from the library of the William H. Vanderbilt House, New York City, 1879. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore, 2014 (2014.530.1.1-.2)

A refreshed installation devoted to Herter Brothers' most important commission—for the William H. Vanderbilt House (on Fifth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets)—complements the debut of the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room and exhibition on George A. Schastey. Herter Brothers rivaled Schastey as one of the premier cabinetmaking and decorating firms of the Gilded Age. Completed in 1882, their designs for the Vanderbilt House resulted in the most opulent interiors of the day.

Among the new discoveries being shown for the first time are a pair of rosewood side chairs for Vanderbilt's library; a pair of gilded and mother-of-pearl armchairs and gilded console table from the drawing room, one of New York's most sumptuous rooms of the day; and a cabinet for the Japanese room of the Vanderbilt House. The Metropolitan now owns the largest holdings of Herter Brothers work for the Vanderbilt commission.

The Herter Brothers and the William H. Vanderbilt House installation will be on view through January 31, 2017.

See this gallery on the Museum Map.

Selected Artworks


Case by George A. Schastey & Co. (1873–97), Piano by Steinway & Sons (1853–present), Model B grand piano, New York City, 1882. Approx. H. 40 x W. 60 x D. 84 in. Satinwood, purpleheart, brass, and silver mounts. Collection of Paul Manganaro

The exhibition will introduce the work of George A. Schastey (American, 1839–1894), who founded one of the leading cabinet and decorating firms of America's Gilded Age. It will feature furniture from several rooms of the Worsham-Rockefeller House, Schastey's best documented commission. Other decorations from the house will add context and texture, such as a glorious pair of leaded-glass windows by noted stained-glass artist John La Farge (American, 1835–1910).

Furniture newly identified as the work of Schastey's firm will demonstrate the quality and range of his production. A highlight is a magnificent art case grand piano. Steinway & Sons documents identify Schastey as the instrument's designer and Newark, New Jersey thread manufacturer William Clark as its original owner.

To provide a context for Schastey's work, the exhibition will also feature work by some of the period's competing cabinetmaking and decorating firms: Pottier and Stymus, Charles Tisch, Herts Brothers, and Herter Brothers. The display will enhance the public's understanding of George A. Schastey and will reveal the interconnected relationships among New York decorators at the highest level.

See this gallery on the Museum Map.

Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age: George A. Schastey is made possible by the Enterprise Holdings Endowment and The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Karen H. Bechtel.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Winter 2016 Bulletin is made possible by the William Cullen Bryant Fellows.

The Museum's quarterly Bulletin program is supported in part by the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, established by the cofounder of Reader's Digest.

Selected Artworks

George A. Schastey & Co. (1873–97). Detail of the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room, New York City, 1881–82. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of The Museum of the City of New York, 2008 (2009.226.1–19a–f)