|Ceiling painted on wooden beams, circa 1880s, and relocated in the 1940s|
Some months ago I was contacted by a reader, Teresa Huhn, who had a mystery involving the ceiling of her Pennsylvania, home, which was built in the mid 1940s. The ceiling had been relocated there from a much older building, but which one? Teresa sent me thrilling photos of the ceiling and told me she'd heard "two possible histories provided by relatives of each side of the original owners’ families.
History #1 says that the ceiling was from the Thaw Mansion, Lyndhurst, that was located along “Millionaire’s Row” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
History #2 says it is from a German church."
|a lovely grisaille inset|
Was I intrigued? You bet! I was inclined to rule out the German church because the imagery in the ceiling isn't religious in nature, nor is the ornament so particularly German, although I have seen its like all over Europe, including parts of Germany. I consulted some others about this, who thought it could be German, or Swiss, or maybe French, but it also could be a mix references. I then had a major diversion reading up on the lurid history
that lead to the near-ruin of the Thaw family and the subsequent disuse
and eventual demolition of Lyndhurst, their palatial Gothic Revival
country estate. Lyndhurst was torn down in 1942 after years of neglect, and it did seem likely that some of the architectural elements salvaged from the mansion by antique dealer Vernon Regal
may have well have been built into somewhat more modest homes in the area.
|The ceiling in its current home: note one of the planks has been made into a valance for the vertical blinds|
I decided to investigate the source of inspiration of the ceiling rather than speculate as to its original site. It's rather nicely painted and in excellent condition, it's typical of the kind of work in "revival" style mansions built in the late 19th century for the new American aristocracy. When it was moved, the ceiling may have been "chopped" or altered in proportions, making it harder to place its original location. It may have been a flat ceiling, rather than pitched as it is now.
|the ornament is painted right onto the wood, with details in gold leaf. gorgeous!|
I reminds me of the kind of thing you'd see in an early renaissance chateau, like La Roche Guyon castle
or Chateau de Pierrefonds. Could it be the work of French painters?
My fellow Ornamentalists, if you would like to weigh in on the origins of this ceiling, or its style, by all means comment and help us get to the bottom of this mystery!
I'd like to thank Ms Huhn for sharing her wonderful ceiling with us, and I am given permission to say that this marvelous ceiling is currently for sale
, and comes complete with a 6 bedroom 6 bathroom house built in the Midcentury Eclectic Style (sorry, I just made that up)
as well as a lovely bit of land in Wexford, Pennsylvania.
Are you cursed with a boring white ceiling and would like something ornamental to improve your life? Please feel free to contact me, I'd be more than happy to paint something for you.
Click on images to view larger. photos in this post by Teresa Huhn, published here with permission