John and Sarah Hunking Wentworth formerly owned the Wentworth house. The museum acquired the house in the year 1926 from a company that specialised in-house wrecking. The house was in bits and pieces as what consisted initially been of the house was wrecked and dismantled into various locations making a little hard to reassemble the original home. A local preservation group at that time pleaded with the museum too, and it remains to a new location and retains most of its contents. However, it proved rather difficult to move the entire house to a new place without distorting its original view and architecture. The following essay, therefore, focuses on describing the Wentworth room, its relation to historical themes and its general architectural history (Peck 8).
Once the people from the metropolitan museum realised that they could not move the entire house to a new location, they decided to tear apart carefully taking as many photographs as they could of the original setting and ensuring that no detail was left uncaptured for reassembly. The pieces that were dismantled were later stored in the Portsmouth Barn for over a decade. The pieces were moved to New York, and in the year 1937 the museum staff decided to recreate the main staircase of the original house and also the second-floor chamber and installed them in the American wing.
The original house was large, and it consisted of a garret and two full stories and historians say that the house was built between 1695 and 1701. According to some evidence found in the home, it proved that the original house consisted of rooms that were grandly panelled and with enormous ceiling heights of up to eight feet at least in the two main floors. The original house also included of the first staircase in New England that had turnings. There is still a lot of speculation on the exact use of the unique rooms however due to the consistency and arrangement of the pieces and house one could conclude that the first floor had a hall and also a parlour that opened up into different rooms.
The room occupies approximately twenty-nine feet long and eighteen feet wide space at the metropolitan museum making it one of the largest domestic interiors that survived from the colonial period. There is also a crisp quarter round chamfering of two summer beams and girts that are in cooperated along the top of the long walls. There are corner posts that are well laid on the fireplace wall so that they can be included in the wall panelling design.
There is also a reasonable reproduction of twelve over eight pane double sash windows, which typically represent the windows of the period when the house was built. The fireplace wall is covered with elevated panelling enclosed with bold mouldings. The panels, however, are irregularly shaped, but they still produce the architectural effect they were intended for. Due to multiple layers of red paint that was found beneath the current ones, they decided to paint panelling dark red to recreate the original work (Heckscher 170).
A beautifully proportioned bolection moulding can be seen from the opening of the fireplace, and this is a feature that is from the original house. There are however some extra additions that were installed by curators in 1937, like patterned herringbone brickwork which was an inspiration from the Winslow house. The first flowing of the room has been replaced by oak which is perceived to be more durable.
The room due to its elegance and detailed features is assumed to have served either as an entertainment room or a sleeping area, most likely the late John and Sarah Wentworth's bedroom. The museum, however, did not install a bed, but there are several items in the room like a veneered six-legged high chest and a dressing table that consists of a large imported mirror probably from England.
There is a gateleg centre table covered with a turkey carpitt which represents a place where refreshments could be served. Most of the chairs in the room have been lined up against the wall, which is a clear indication of how the rooms used to be in the 17th century - most of the furniture used to be lined up against the wall so that space could be left in the middle of the room. The furniture was needed for use for example for dining purposes that's when the furniture would be brought to the middle of the room for its intended purpose (Appleton 15).
The painting and artwork in the Wentworth house were inspired by the Baroque period. During this period the art was distinguished by a lot of dynamism, and the details were also evident. The furniture in the Wentworth room is in the William and Mary style which was a style that was coming up in the 17th century. This is furniture that displays a transitional style stretching out from Mannerist to Queen Anne furniture. It's a combination of both lines and curves and also represents woodturning and carving designs that almost imitate some of the Asian models (Alexander 268).
The house was a combination of works from different architects including Collen Campbell, Ralph Tunnicliffe and Henry Flit croft who all incorporated various forms of artwork and changed the design of the Wentworth. The house belonged to a successful merchant and a sea captain, John Wentworth, and he served as assistant governor in New Hampshire which meant that he was a wealthy man.
His wife Sarah was an only child of a very wealthy man called Mark Hunking. This led Mark to purchase the land in which the Wentworth was built as a wedding present for Sarah and John. The Wentworth house was therefore made with renown architects, and a lot of money was invested in developing the Wentworth house as the couple could afford the expenses that came with it. If the Wentworth's were not wealthy, then the design of the Wentworth house would not have been as sophisticated as it was.
The main architecture form in the 17th century was the baroque architecture which was influenced socially, politically and geographically. It was characterised by light, new ways, and shadow which produced a theatrical effect. There were gigantic proportions, an open space in the middle of the room so that light could reflect well in the house, some theatre influenced results and also columns that were twisting. As seen in the Wentworth room the furniture was always arranged along the walls to leave the centre of the room unoccupied and clear (Shafernich 55).Several historical themes have been explored in the Wentworth room like identity where we see that the design of the house has been influenced by the financial status of the Wentworth's. According to the status, he was able to build a house that in cooperated the latest architecture in the 17th century and everything in the house was expensive and sophisticated, and therefore John and Sarah were identified by their monetary status. This also resulted in the outcome of the Wentworth house.
The Wentworth room has preserved a lot of 17th-century artwork and architecture and has only introduced a few features to the place to make it livelier or to protect it. For example, the floor is preserved by substituting the original one with wooden oak which a material that is known to last long. The painting that has been introduced to the room matches the original colour or its at least a shade of the original one. The museum has invested most of its resources and time in ensuring that artistic and historic homes like the Wentworth house remain relevant and preserve their historical richness.
Even though the people from the museum could not dismantle the whole house and carry it all to New York, they tried as much as possible to assemble the unique features of the home like the historic staircase which was a turning point for stairway designs and art. Metropolitan museum has dedicated most of its space in the conservation of various period rooms, and one can pinpoint features that vary from one place to the next. Each room has its unique history and story, and they all carry rich architectural and art knowledge. Hence the period rooms provide more insight on what has been learnt and taught in class. They offer more information and also place for more analysis especially for young architects who want to explore and integrate different house designs.
In conclusion, the Wentworth room comprises of great features and significant history as discussed above. Some of the designs in the room are emulated to this date while some of them are left to be unique and special features that are used as reference points when referring to early day architecture.
Alexander, Edward P. "Artistic and Historical Period Rooms 1." Curator: The Museum Journal 7.4 (1964): 263-281.
Appleton Jr., William Sumner. "The Wallace Nutting Houses." Bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, 10 (1919): 15-16.
Heckscher, Morrison H. "The American Wing Rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Winterthur Portfolio 46.2/3 (2012): 161-178.
Peck, Amelia, and James Parker. Period rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.
Shafernich, Sandra M. "Onsite museums, openair museums, museum villages and living history museums: Reconstructions and period rooms in the United States and the United Kingdom." Museum management and curatorship 12.1 (1993): 43-61.
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