Reuse Reconsidered: An interdisciplinary conference on reuse
Brown University, September 15 - 17, 2017
Bathing à la Pompadour: Luxury and the Reinvention of Eighteenth-Century French Design in the Gilded Age Bathroom
In designing Gilded Age mansions, architects, decorators, and patrons drew on a variety of historical sources and collected a wide array of historical objects, dismantling entire rooms of great European houses for re-installation in New York, Newport, and elsewhere. Rather than simply recycling historical forms and imagery, however, they adapted them to modern technologies and uses, creating novel spaces and symbols that were consistent with patrons’ visions of themselves as a new elite class, and that communicated and reinforced that elite status to others.
This paper will focus on one of those spaces in particular—the bathroom, and will consider reuse from the perspective of identity-making by examining the role that historical narrative played in the definition of an ‘appropriate’ space for upper-class bathing and bodily ritual at the turn of the century. Beginning with Alva Vanderbilt’s trend-setting bathroom at 660 Fifth Avenue, it will examine the creative reuse of eighteenth-century French designs by Beaux-Arts architects and decorators such as Richard Morris Hunt and Ogden Codman, Jr. in the design of private mansions, and analyze the ways in which French comfort, particularly as embodied by the Marquise de Pompadour, was reimagined in the creation of an ‘ideal’ bath for modern, fashionable American consumption.
Lecture location: Panel B—Reimagining Space, Studio 2
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