Noonmark Antiques

Yuletide at Winterthur: Part 1

Charles HammellComment

Before jumping in to the seasonal extravagence of Winterthur, let's take a quick look at how this magnificent collection of American antiques began. The story I've read time and again is that Henry Francis du Pont visited the Vermont home of Electra Havemeyer Webb in 1923. She, too, was to amass a significant collection of antiques--but of a very different focus. Webb's interest was in American folk art and country furniture. She also built a museum--the Shelburne Museum.

The story says that during this visit, Henry du Pont saw a Staffordshire collection in a pine country cupboard. Here they are, in Winterthur today:

According to the accounts, this experience was an epiphany for du Pont. He had been in Europe looking at antiquities and estates there. He had not yet clarified his direction. The visit with Havemeyer-Webb caused him to focus his collecting efforts towards a singular goal: amass a collection of the very best American antiques. du Pont's interests and mindset were certainly different than Havemeyer-Webb's. She demonstrated a deep appreciation for exceptional works created by hard-working, country artisans. du Pont, on the other hand, seemed to have a greater interest in the very highest achievements of trained American professionals. Thus, du Pont was able to acquire renowned works spanning the Jacobean through Classical periods of American furniture style.

Next: the Christmas trees at Winterthur