New Decorative Arts exhibit includes furniture, fine art and needlework showing Connecticut’s heritage of craftsmanship and design
Hartford, Conn., March 6, 2015 – Spring weekends spent scouring antique shows can result in wonderful finds for collectors, but some of the very best treasures of Connecticut craftsmanship will also be on display at the Connecticut Historical Society in CHS’s new exhibit titled Connecticut Decorative Arts: Masterpieces from the CHS Collection.
The exhibit will open Saturday, March 21, and run through Sept. 26. The opening is scheduled to coincide with the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show to be held March 21 and 22 at the Hartford Armory. Holders of tickets for the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show will get free admission to the CHS for the duration of the Connecticut Decorative Arts: Masterpieces from the CHS Collection exhibit.
The exhibit is being curated by members of CHS’s new Decorative Arts Affinity Group, who volunteered their time and expertise to choose among many outstanding examples of furniture, fine art, ceramics, needlework and metalware that showcase the rich heritage of craftsmanship and design in Connecticut.
“I immensely enjoyed the special access which was provided to the CHS’s collection,” said Lara Hillman, a member of the CHS Decorative Arts Affinity Group. “I love that museums are repositories of history and opportunities to learn. The CHS’s collection has some outstanding furniture, textiles, and paintings, which should be a point of pride for Connecticut’s citizens. It was fascinating to peruse the extensive holdings and be able to choose a ‘wish list’ for exhibition.”
Among the key items in the exhibit is “The First, Second and Last Scene of Mortality,” an embroidery created by Prudence Punderson of Preston during the American Revolution.
At first, this scene might appear to simply show a woman at home. The fashionable furniture, carpet, curtains, gilt mirror and framed picture indicate the family’s wealth, as does the presence of the girl tending the baby, who is assumed to be the family’s slave Jenny.
But the coffin, with Prudence Punderson’s initials on it, is a clue to a second, symbolic meaning to the picture. The image is a reminder of the shortness of life. Prudence depicted herself at three stages: as a baby, as a young woman and in death. The quality of the needlework is excellent, but Punderson’s work is also important as an inspiration for other women artists, including contemporary artist Kiki Smith’s installation entitled Sojourn at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York in 2010.
The exhibit also includes a cherry dressing table created around 1783, attributed to the Eliphalet Chapin shop of East Windsor, considered one of the masterpieces of Connecticut furniture. Every detail of its elaborate construction and design is meticulously executed. Decoration on the table includes an applied carving on the central lower drawer in the shape of the initials “AL,” embellished with trailing vines and finely carved leaves. “AL” is presumed to be the initials for Amasa Loomis (1737-1793), a widower from East Windsor, who married widow Priscilla Birge in 1783. Priscilla may have selected this elegant personalized Chapin dressing table as a wedding gift.
The Connecticut Decorative Arts: Masterpieces from the CHS Collection exhibit, running March 21 through Sept. 26, may be visited during CHS’s expanded hours, noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free for CHS members, children 5 years and under and for Connecticut Spring Antiques Show ticketholders. Regular admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 65 years and older and $4 for students with a valid college ID and youth 6-17 years old.
Drawing on themes from the Connecticut Decorative Arts: Masterpieces from the CHS Collection exhibit to inspire kids’ creativity, CHS will also host Decorative Arts Day, a Free First Saturday family program, sponsored by Berkshire Bank, on Saturday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. In a historical twist on “arts and crafts time,” children will make a craft inspired by items from the exhibit. Children may try their hand at stenciling, or create their own embroidery design. For more information, call 860-236-5621, extension 222, or email Corinne_Swanson@chs.org.
About the Connecticut Historical Society
Established in Hartford in 1825, the Connecticut Historical Society is the official state historical society of Connecticut and one of the oldest historical societies in the nation.
Located at 1 Elizabeth Street in Hartford, CHS houses a nonprofit museum, library, archive and education center that is open to the public. The CHS campus houses a research center containing over 3.5 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts and other historical materials.
CHS programs and exhibits help Connecticut residents connect with each other, have conversations that shape our communities and make informed decisions based on our past and present.