Object of the Day

with central column around which a bombe spiral staircase rotates terminating in a similarly curved inverted cone form standing area of the pulpit surmounted by a carved scroll canopy attached above to the column, all resting a rectangular geometrically inlaid marquetry floor-base
A Staircase to Heaven?
There are many types of staircase models in the Thaw collection, much of which was donated in 2007 to Cooper Hewitt, to coincide with an exhibition Made to Scale: Staircase Masterpieces The Eugene and Clare Thaw Gift that I was lucky enough to curate after studying their significance for the acquisition. Joan K. Davidson, whose...
Staircase Model, Curved Double-level with busts of François-Marie Arouet, called Voltaire (1694-1778) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
France, early 19th century
Veneered mahogany, ebony, pear or maple wood, on mahogany, solid mahogany; solid oak with veneered border (base)  
Gift of Eugene V and Clare Thaw, 2007-45-12
Philosophers don’t condescend
I fell in love with this model the first time I saw it, and every time I see it I still smile. With its sophisticated use of materials, including that of Sèvres busts, and the humor of juxtaposing the two great French philosophers of the eighteenth century, Voltaire and Rousseau, it displays itself as a...
Spiral staircase model with curved stringboards, on a circular base on bun feet.
The Perfect Spiral
This seemingly simple model is actually one of the most accomplished of the staircase models produced in the compagnonnage tradition in France during the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. This meritocratic system of craftsmanship outside the traditional guilds started in the middle ages but reached its zenith after the French revolution when royal patronage...
A Model fit for a Pope
When I first saw this model, it immediately struck me as a work of stunning craftsmanship and design that showed the appreciation of a maker of one era for the design of another. With the elegant proportions featured by architect Andrea Palladio (1508-80), who was also from the Veneto, as well as other late Renaissance...
1952-52-7-b lo res
Exotic Landscapes from the Golden Age
This handsome nineteenth century French paper features a block printed pattern of white and gray on a powder-blue background. Rococo Revival scrollwork frames two alternating landscape vignettes of far off and exotic destinations, and the whole pattern repeats vertically. Once scene show idyllic islands topped with classical columned temples. Wind-blown trees, flying gulls and a...
1971-- Matt Flynn 004
Pugin’s Gothic Revival
This grand English wallpaper was designed by A.W.N Pugin in the mid-nineteenth century, and is a prime example of the Gothic Revival style he championed. The brown pattern is block printed and flocked on a metallic gold ground. The pattern features alternating crowned fleur-de-lis and Tudor roses, set within a diaper or ogival framework. The...
1972-42-202-a Matt Flynn
Wallpaper in Bloom
This lovely sidewall is an exceptional example of the art and craft of wallpaper. Made in France during the mid-nineteenth century, it was block printed on handmade paper, and represents the high end of Victorian wallpaper production. Bouquets of pale pink and yellow roses tumble down a satin, mint-green background along with blue morning glories,...
1956-42-101 lo res
New Jersey Nouveau
In 1905, the same year that influential architectural theorist Adolf Loos sounded the modernist rallying cry against ornamentation, a small-town New Jersey designer named Albert Ainsworth decided he was going to go ahead and design a highly ornamental, floral wallpaper anyway. Floppy, mustard-yellow poppies grow from spindly fronds of the same color. A muted, green...
1991-89-107 lo res
Happy Hour
The maker and designer of this 1950s American wallpaper are unknown, but that doesn’t stop it from being awesome. Pineapples, chickens and coffee pots mingle happily with martini glasses, menus and big tuna fish. An assertive group of cherries, lemons and limes reoccur frequently, and a self-satisfied sea lion balances a cocktail on his nose....