Metropolitan Museum curators Morrison Heckscher and Amelia Peck discuss the details of an eighteenth-century period room furnished with the belongings of the Verplanck family. Along with eighteen other period rooms, the Verplanck Room will return to public view when The New American Wing reopens on May 19, 2009. More information about the period rooms is available on the Museum's Audio Guide.
Peter Kenny: Morrie Heckscher, chairman of The American Wing, speaks to us from the Verplanck Room.
Morrie Heckscher: The owner of most of this furniture was Samuel Verplanck, a fifth-generation New York Dutch family who married one of his cousins, Judith Crommelin, in the 1760s. It is the one such place, the one such room anywhere that we know, where one can see all of one family's furniture shown very much the way it would have been in the eighteenth century, when it was new. The room is furnished with a suite of matching chairs and tables, particularly the card table in the center, all obviously made by one craftsman in the same style, which is a very English, mid-eighteenth-century, Georgian, or so-called Chippendale style of furniture. But clearly the work of a New York City craftsman. In addition, there are the family portraits, two of which you can see over the settee on the far wall, by America's greatest eighteenth-century portraitist, John Singleton Copley.
Amelia Peck: That reminds me of two other paintings that are in the room.
Peter Kenny: Morrie Heckscher is joined by his colleague, curator Amelia Peck.
Amelia Peck: The two little pictures above the mantel that brings up one of the more enjoyable stories about the Verplanck family. We're not sure if it's totally true, but it kind of gives the room a little more cachet.
Peter Kenny: Here’s the story.
Amelia Peck: Samuel and Judith Verplanck eventually had a very big falling out. And the falling out came in 1776 when the British occupied Manhattan. And Samuel was a patriot and was very upset by this and fled New York, Manhattan, and went to his country house upriver. Judith, however, being brought up in Holland, was a royalist and stayed in New York. While in New York, the family history says she formed an attachment to Sir William Howe, who was the commander-in-chief of the British army occupying Manhattan.
Peter Kenny: And those two paintings above the mantel were a gift of Judith from him. They both depict Eros, god of love. One is The Temptation of Eros, the other is The Victory of Eros.
Amelia Peck: And they can only really be interpreted as a love token or love gift.