Maymont Mansion Collection

The Maymont Mansion Collection is comprised of works of decorative and fine arts acquired by Major and Mrs. James H. Dooley in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Major Dooley was a prominent business and civic leader of post-Reconstruction Richmond. He and his wife Sallie were well-educated and well-travelled millionaires who became two of the city’s greatest benefactors. In addition to other sizable bequests to Richmond charities, the childless couple left a collection of their furnishings and objets d’art to the City of Richmond, along with their intact, 100-acre estate, Maymont, to be used as a museum and park. The city opened Maymont to the public in March 1926, just six months after Mrs. Dooley’s death.

From the original furnishings of Maymont Mansion (completed in 1893) and the Dooleys’ summer home, Swannanoa (completed in 1913), selected pieces were left to nieces and nephews, and the remainder left to form the museum collection. Unfortunately, papers, blueprints and documents at Maymont were burned following Mrs. Dooley’s death, and in the 1930s, pieces that the City considered superfluous were sold. Despite these “edits” of the original contents, the interiors and a large collection amassed by Maymont’s owners remained relatively untouched until the beginning of the restoration in 1970. Maymont Mansion is unusual among historic house museums in that no intervening generations, families or adaptive conversions separate us from the original owner’s thirty-two year occupancy. Today Maymont Mansion offers a well-preserved document of Gilded Age design and the taste of well-educated, cosmopolitan millionaires of the period.

Maymont’s interiors demonstrate the decorative complexity, historical eclecticism and affinity for European elegance that prevailed in upper-class décor in the late 19th century. Like their peers, the Dooleys favored such items as French tapestries, oriental rugs, heavily carved furniture, ormolu encrusted pieces, Neoclassical sculpture, fine French and Asian porcelain, and luxury items from Tiffany and Company. Indicative of the Dooleys’ reverence for the “Old Masters,” the collection includes many well-executed oil copies of paintings in the Pitti Palace, the Alte Pinathotek and other major collections that the couple visited on their trips abroad. Also, objects associated with prominent figures were highly desirable, and Americans travelling in Europe were susceptible to dealers’ questionable provenances, hence such items at Maymont as the teapoy supposedly given to Benjamin Disraeli by Queen Victoria in 1878.

The bequeathed collection totals 949 objects. Of these objects, approximately 60 percent originally furnished Maymont and about 40 percent originally furnished the Dooleys’ summer home. Of the objects on exhibit in the 12 restored rooms of the upper floors, approximately 98 percent are Dooley-owned pieces. Since the nonprofit Maymont Foundation undertook the operation of the estate in 1975, 287 pieces have been added to the collection through private donations, including Dooley-owned items and objects of the period, many of which were associated with their cohort. A support inventory to enhance interpretation includes 573 items. The library holds 1,226 volumes from the Dooleys’ original collection. Archives hold approximately 1,000 items including Dooley letters, blueprints, maps, invoices and photographs. The Maymont Mansion reference library totals approximately 500 books. The belowstairs exhibition holds 761 turn-of-the-20th-century household accessories and appliances, acquired through private funding to furnish seven period rooms that opened in 2005.

Collection Highlights

Ceramics

  • Many examples of Sevres porcelain
  • Eighty-eight-piece duplicate set of Haviland’s Rutherford B. Hayes White House dinnerware, 1881
  • Dresden tall compote
  • Royal Vienna portrait plates
  • Several Berlin porcelain plaques
  • Two matching rose medallion floor urns
  • Satsuma urn, two large Chinese gold fish bowls, and other Asian and European ceramics

Furniture

Primarily 19th-century and early-20th-century furniture of European and American origin, in addition to a few Asian pieces. Highlights include:

  • Rosewood cabinet by Jean-Paul Mazaroz which stands 12’9″, displayed at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1855
  • Silver and narwhal tusk ivory dressing table and chair by Tiffany and Company, 1905, in the Viking or Celtic revival style
  • French Art Nouveau side chair with marquetry water lily decoration
  • Occasional table with Italian micromosaic top
  • Swan bedroom set designed by Neuman and Co. of NY, ca. 1910
  • Dutch marquetry furniture
  • Sheraton/Hepplewhite-style painted satinwood morning room suite
  • 1820s English teapoy, said to have belonged to Benjamin Disraeli, with silver tea caddies by London maker Samuel Whitford

Glass

  • “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” vase by L. C. Tiffany, 1908
  • Cameo glass vase by Thomas Webb & Sons
  • Tiffany Studios stained glass window, approx. 15′ x 10′
  • Stained glass transoms throughout upper floors
  • Enamelled glass window depicting a mother in mourning
  • American cut-glass banquet lamp
  • Miscellaneous vases
  • Venetian wine glasses

Horology

  • Louis XVth-style pedestal clock by Ronquetti, Paris
  • Tiffany and Company annular clock depicting the toilet of Venus
  • Mantel clock and garniture mounted by bronze figures depicting the Massacre of the Innocents, Jeffrey Japy freres et cie
  • Tiffany and Company minute-repeater time piece
  • Tiffany and Company mantel clock
  • Garniture mounted with bronze figures of Medici tomb figures

Lighting

  • Original gas/electric combination fixtures throughout including 22 chandeliers and 36 wall brackets
  • Bronze gas torchere in the ⊃;-life-size form of Minerva, cast by Barbidienne, Paris
  • Oil lamp by Cornelius
  • Various oil and electrified lamps

Metal Objects

  • Silver Tiffany and Company commemorative cup, 1904
  • Gorham silver tea service in the Medallion pattern
  • Art Nouveau, gilt bronze inkwell and pentray by Charles Korschann, 1896-1906
  • James Dooley’s silver academic medals
  • Fireplace tools
  • Miscellaneous containers

Music Box

Mechanical organ by Davrainville, the premier Parisian mechanical instrument maker, signed and dated 1820; the clock-work mechanism drives a two-foot long rotating cylinder; 26 wooden pipes and leather bellows; Empire style case on chest holding seven cylinders with operatic highlights.

Paintings and Prints

  • Many oil paintings and prints which are turn-of-the-20th-century copies of “Old Masters”
  • Several contemporary genre scenes and landscapes by Italian artists acquired in Rome, June 1910
  • Watercolors of the Maymont grounds by T.H. Wilkinson, 1903
  • Portraits of James and Sallie Dooley by William Garl Brown
  • Three watercolors of antebellum scenes by Suzanne Gutherz, 1906

Sculpture

  • Several 19th-century Neoclassical marble sculptures, including works by expatriate Virginian William Couper, also Emil Wolff, Raphaello Romanelli and others
  • One of the four extant works by 17th-century Italian sculptor Francesco Grassia, a marble bacchic group, acquired by Dooley from the Galerie Sangiorgi, Rome, 1910
  • Large bronze lion by Louis Amateis, 1891

Textiles

  • Three Aubusson tapestries
  • An 18th-century tapestry by Gobelins in the Don Quixote series
  • French tapestry-covered salon chairs and couches
  • Several silk oriental rugs and other orientals including a late-19th-century Kirman and a 22′ x 14′ Isfahan
  • Four sets of original draperies
  • Irish lace dresses and bodices

Maymont House Archives

  • Dooley letters, documents, ephemera
  • Maps and blueprints
  • Early City documents and post-1925 photographs of Maymont

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