The Project Challenge
• To identify an object from the built interior (up until the nation’s independence from their colonial power) that provides insight into the colonial world of what is now known as Europe and The Americas.
• To trace the object’s story over time through researching work by others (writing, photographs, videos) and developing original research (writing, diagrams, drawings).
• To express your understanding of the effects of colonialism on the built interior through a digital book and presentation.
Chelcey Dunham, VCU Interior Design MFA 2023, selected A Looking Glass for the 2021 Colonialism And The Americas, Object Analysis Project.
Around 1720, mahogany was imported to England and began to supersede walnut as the wood of choice for fancy furniture. The North East colonies were a good stopping point along the shipping route from Jamaica, Cuba, and Honduras. Of course, some of the mahogany remained in the North East, and that is most likely how Mr. Elliott got his supply of Mahogany for his many-looking glasses. It was most likely designed to fit on a wall between two windows, in order to give an increased sense of light and space during the day. There would often be a pier table in front of the mirror, frequently with candles, so that at night the looking glass would maximize the candlelight.
Caitlin McLean, VCU Interior Design MFA 2023, selected the Candlestick for the 2021 Colonialism And The Americas, Object Analysis Project.
Candlesticks were a physical representation of wealth and status, so it’s very likely these were regularly kept on display during meals or in the bedroom. Candles themselves were expensive - given the prosperity of the Schuylers [owners], it’s probable that these were used fairly regularly, as they could afford to maintain a supply of candles. Because they were originally made in a set of four with a snuffer stand, I believe these were made for display purposes, likely in a drawing or sitting room where the Schuylers would entertain guests. These would have been a definite status symbol for the Schuyler's - the fact that these were very large, entirely silver, and incredibly detailed, and they had four made, reveals how wealthy the family was.
Madison Goff, VCU Interior Design MFA 2023, selected the Chalice for the 2021 Colonialism And The Americas, Object Analysis Project.
Native Indian silversmiths were forced by Spain to forfeit their traditional silver practices and are taught by Spanish silversmiths the rules and styles of the Spanish Church. The function of the chalice was to hold the consecrated wine during communion. The chalice was created by pouring the molten silver into a cast that the artist made out of wax. The artist then utilized the technique called ‘repousse’ where he hammered from the inside of the chalice which creates a low relief design. Then a small layer of gold was then applied on top of the silver-gilt chalice.
Cindy Perdomo, VCU Interior Design MFA 2023, selected the Chest of Drawers (Cómoda) for the 2021 Colonialism And The Americas, Object Analysis Project.
The French and English trade with Cuba influenced Cuban furniture during the eighteenth century. Cuba was influenced by the Spanish plateresque style which was influenced by the French baroque. During the British occupation in 1741 Havana residents had the ability to purchase consumer goods from British merchants. The sacristy room holds the vestments and sacred objects used in the services. In Cuba, the elites would commission cabinet makers from the island to create a smaller sacristy chest for their private chapels and urban mansions. These extravagant chests would mimic the grand ostentatious pieces of the future built into the church’s walls.
Tessa Trowbridge, VCU Interior Design MFA 2023, selected the Chest with Drawers for the 2021 Colonialism And The Americas, Object Analysis Project
As people began to accumulate wealth, more storage methods were needed for small objects. Using the chest as the display case was an indicator of wealth. The chest turned into a focal point of the home. Motifs from Tudor style embroidery largely influenced the designs of chests from the Connecticut River Valley. It is possible that makers understood the value of embroidered patterns and wanted to bring this value to their furniture. Similar to the use of embroidery to represent wealth, chests with decorative carvings were used for the display and storage of precious items in a time period of economic success. The maker of the selected object, Peter Blin, may have been exposed to Tudor embroidery while living in London.
Tawny Chamberlain, VCU Interior Design MFA 2023, selected the Coffee Pot for the 2021 Colonialism And The Americas, Object Analysis Project.
Entertaining in the home was also important and high society wished to emulate silver tableware from London in particular. Only the affluent could afford silver coffee pots and their elite status would have been marked by how many pieces they used to serve their guests. Tea and coffee rituals were also associated with elite femininity, as depicted by two Boston women in the painting to the right (Jamieson, 2001). We can imagine their parlor had elegantly framed mirrors and paintings, a plaster ceiling, and comfortable furnishings typical of the Georgian Era (Pile & Gura, 2014).
Nadia Mechboukh, VCU Interior Design MFA 2023, selected the Writing Desk (Escritorio) for the 2021 Colonialism And The Americas, Object Analysis Project.
The portable desks traveled through space and adapted to new locations. The materiality, design, and techniques of the escritorios are an indication of the location where it was made. The concept of the escritorio was relatively the same through time but told different stories through its designs and ornamentation.
1) It had an administrative function.
2) It was a sign of wealth and social position. (from a cassone to escritorio)
3) The length of the production process using Linaloe can explain why these are believed to be custom-made for wealthy people.