When I have the chance to go to the Metropolitan Museum, I usually try to pay the period rooms a visit. In the museum curatorial community, there is a bit controversy as to how education a period room actually is. But I love see all the “stuff” arranged. The highlight of this room is paneling from the Palais Paar in Vienna. The Palais was built in about 1630 for the postmaster of the Holy Roman Empire, Baron Johann Christoph von Paar. (Obviously, a pretty lucrative position. There was actually an entire post office with stables behind the house.) The fortune of the family continued to grow and these rooms were remodeled between 1765 and 1771. A French-born architect was hired and the sculptor Johan Georg Leithne was commissioned to carve these magnificent panelings out of soft pinewood.
All images courtesy of de la Barra Photography
By the 19th century, the climate in Europe (particularly for aristocrats) had changed since the late 18th century. And the 19th century the Paar family descendants were relatively uninterested in family’s Viennese palace, renting it for long periods to Russian aristocrats. By the end of World War I, the palace was a shell of it’s former shelf. It had been stripped of furniture and was dark and deserted. In 1937, family sold the building to developers and it was demolished and replaced by a modern apartment building. But before the sale, the boiserie (carved paneling) was salvaged and was acquired by a firm in Paris to be sold. One of the finest examples of boiserie was purchased in 1938 by the Bolivian tycoon, Antenor Patiño to embellish his recently acquired Paris home. When Patiño moved to a new house in Paris in the early 1970s, he gave the panelings to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon.
The boiseries acquired by the Metropolitan Museum were intended for the family’s living quarters and so were much smaller than those acquired by Patiño. Before they found their way to the Museum, in 1934, a well-known English collector, Sir Philip Sassoon bought them and had them installed in his London home. When this house was about to be demolished in the mid-1950s, the original Paris firm reacquired the boiseries and sold them to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman in 1963. The couple donated them to the museum.
Above: Some of the room’s many details. The ceiling rosette is based on photographs of the family living quarters in the palace. The 12-branch gilt-steel and rock crystal chandelier dates to the period of Louis XIV about 1730. (I wrote a piece about the history of the chandelier for Design*Sponge right here)
If you’d like to see it all for yourself, head to Gallery 526 – French Decorative Arts: Paar Roomand for more about the Period Rooms at the Met, check out Period Rooms in The Metropolitan Museum of Art