Friday, February 4, 2011

Biltmore House.

If you're a regular reader here, then you know of our trips to Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. Unfortunately, no photographs are allowed inside the house. However, you can ask permission to use some of their stock photos. I did so, and was rewarded by their allowing me to print their photographs of Biltmore House.
This is the Banquet Hall of Biltmore, the largest room in the house. It measures 72 feet long, 42 feet wide, and has a 70 foot high barrel-vaulted ceiling. The dining table can seat up to 64 guests. Because of the vast dimensions of this room, the architect, Richard Morris Hunt, and his son, Richard Howland Hunt designed special furniture, including two built-in gilt-trimmed throne chairs, the oak dining table, and 64 chairs. Although the Banquet Room is massive in proportion, it has perfect acoustics. Two people sitting at opposite ends of the table could converse without having to raise their voices. Hunt also created a display setting for five of Vanderbilt's Flemish tapestries, which he is believed to have purchased in Paris in 1887. The tapestries are quite intricate textiles, woven of silk, wool, and metallic thread between 1546 and 1553 and are part of an original set of seven portraying Venus (goddess of love), her paramour, Mars (god of war), and her jealous husband, Vulcan (god of fire) of Roman Mythology. The triple fireplace is flanked by armor dating from the 1400's to the 1800's. A high-relief panel, entitled The Return from the Chase, is featured on the overmantel, carved by sculptor, Karl Bitter. The hanging pennants include the Biltmore Estate service flag, commemorating staff members who served in World War I, and replicas of flags from the original 13 colonies and the American Revolution. The flags above the fireplace represent countries in power when Christopher Columbus sailed to North America. Vanderbilt actually visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus' second voyage.
This is the Breakfast Room at Biltmore, used for intimate family meals. Probably all three meals were eaten here when the Vanderbilts were not entertaining. Even though it was designed on a more intimate scale than the Banquet Hall, the Breakfast Room is nonetheless elegant, with Italian marble wainscoating, tooled-leather wall covering, and a fireplace surround of Wedgewood-styled jasperware tiles. The ceiling is ornate plasterwork, highlighted with a gold-tinted glaze. It features heavy pendants terminating in small acorns - one of the symbols in the Vanderbilt family crest. The circa 1839 portrait to the left of the fireplace is that of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Commodore, George's grandfather, and shows him as a young man holding a spyglass, appropriate for a mariner. As with everything Vanderbilt, no expense was spared in setting the dining table. It was spread with damask linens, no doubt woven in Ireland and embroidered in France. The dining chairs were gilt-legged and upholstered with cut-velvet. Meals were served on gold-trimmed porcelain dinnerware made by Thomas Minton, the noted Staffordshire ceramics manufacturer. Drinks were served in crystal glasses, etched with Vanderbilt monograms, produced by Baccarat of France and Thomas Webb and Sons of England. As part of the 1993 restoration of this room, the seating furniture was reupholstered and the draperies replaced using 350 yards of silk cut velvet matched to the original pattern, woven by Tassinari & Chatel, founded in 1680, of Lyons, France - the same textile firm that filled George Vanderbilt's order in the 1890's.

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