Published: December 18, 2015
NEWPORT, R.I. — A new exhibition curated by The Preservation Society of Newport County, “Newport and Her Southern Sisters: Three Centuries of Art and Design,” is on view through January 3. The first exhibition in the newly -renovated gallery space on the second floor of Rosecliff (1902) takes visitors across three centuries to explore the relationship between Newport and the American South: from New Orleans, Charleston and Baltimore to Virginia’s fabled plantations and resorts and the winter playground of Palm Beach.
From never-before-exhibited ball gowns to portraits, silver and furniture, the exhibition sheds new light on Newport as a vibrant cultural crossroad over 300 years. It tells the story in four chronological chapters: the colonial period, the antebellum period, post-Civil War and Gilded Age, and early Twentieth Century. Objects and costumes on display come from several Preservation Society properties, as well as loans from the private collections of families with ties to both Newport and the South.
“The close bond between Newport and the South — through trade, tourism and marriage — didn’t stop with the Civil War. In fact, Southerners like Alva Vanderbilt and Ward McAllister helped define Newport as the crown jewel of Gilded Age society,: said Preservation Society museum affairs director Laurie Ossman, PhD “We hope this exhibition will generate interest and encourage further discussion about these complex and influential economic, cultural, artistic and social relationships.”
“This is just the first of many museum exhibitions to come in our new Rosecliff gallery space,” said Preservation Society CEO and executive director Trudy Coxe. “We will now be able to expand and enhance our interpretation of Newport’s architecture, landscapes and social history because we will have space to show objects not just from our own collections, but also loans from other museums that relate to the Newport story.”
Among the pieces on display is an Eighteenth Century mahogany chest on stand from Hunter House, attributed to the workshops of Townsend & Goddard here in Newport. It is shown in two pieces — the way it would have been stored on a ship when it was sent to the Southern market.
The antebellum period is shown as a parlor, in a display that explores how boarding houses gave way to the hotel boom in Newport, which then led to private cottages built by Southerners who fueled Newport’s taste for luxury. It features several pieces of furniture and a silver tea service descended through the families that lived at Kingscote.
After the Civil War, marriages between Southern belles and Yankee gentlemen led to the construction of the opulent mansions of the Gilded Age. Finally, in the Twentieth Century, fashionable Newporters looking for a new winter playground headed south to help create Palm Beach style.
Admission to the exhibition is included as part of the Rosecliff house tour. For details on ticket options and to purchase tickets, visit www.newportmansions.org. Rosecliff is at 548 Bellevue Avenue.
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