All the Glitter & the Gold: Gilded New York

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The Gilded Age.  I live for this extravagant period of decadence beyond description at the end of the 19th century, where millions upon millions of dollars – unfathomable sums of money today – could be seen simply by strolling up and down New York’s Millionaire’s Row.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 1882, designed by George B. Post, expanded in 1894, and photographed circa 1908, at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 1882, designed by George B. Post, expanded in 1894, and photographed circa 1908, at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.
Photo By Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

From the colossal limestone faux chateaux that lined Fifth Avenue and their gilded interiors to the opulent fancy dress balls with no expenses spared thrown by the industrial titan’s wives, draped in strings of pearls and endless diamonds, each desperately vying to be crowned Queen of New York Society.

Michele Gordigiani, 'Cornelia Ward Hall and Her Children,' 1880 • Oil on canvas • Museum of the City of New York, Bequest of Mrs. Martha Hall Barrett, 61.155.1

“Cornelia Ward Hall and Her Children” by Michele Giordigiani, 1880.
Photo By Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Revisiting the extravagant splendor of this era, a new book Gilded New York: Design, Fashion and Society, edited by Donald Albrecht and Jeannine Falino from The Monacelli Press, and a coinciding exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York tell the story of all the glitter and the gold during the Gilded Age in New York.  The exhibition will also serve to launch the new Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery at the museum, which opened last week.

Gilded New York

“Gilded New York: Design, Fashion, and Society”
Edited by Donald Albrecht, Jeannine Falino, Phyllis Magidson
From The Monacelli Press

Within the pages of the book and the galleries of the exhibition, visitors will enter a world of lavishness that was once daily life for families like the Astors, Vanderbilts, Goulds, Goelets and Belmonts.  Exquisite fancy costume dresses – including the “Electric Light” costume dress made by Maison Worth that was worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II (Alice Claypoole Gwynne) to her sister-in-law’s famous Vanderbilt Ball in 1883 – Venetian glassware and ornate sterling silver, decorative objects and antique furniture, photographs of glamorous social events and extraordinary residences and their interiors, and jewelry comprise some of the 100 works in the exhibition, all of which were created between the mid-1870s and the early 20th century.

Fancy dress costume by Maison Worth representing “Electric Light,” 1883 • Worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II to the Vanderbilt Ball

Fancy dress costume by Maison Worth representing “Electric Light,” 1883 • Worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II to the Vanderbilt Ball • Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Countess Laszlo Szechenyi, 51.284.3

Other items worthy of note include:  a Marcus & Co. enameled pocket watch with sapphire fob, an ebony-and-silver dresser set that belonged to John D. Rockefeller; the “Rehan Jewel” — a cluster of translucent morning glories set in gold and enamel — named for then-famous stage actress Ada Rehan; American and French oil paintings of the era’s leading social and financial figures, including portraits of Cornelia Ward Hall and her children by Michele Gordigiani, Mrs. DeLancey Iselin Kane by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and Louisa Van Rensselaer Baylies by Carolus-Duran.

Tiffany & Co., Pendant brooch, ca. 1900 • Platinum, diamond, sapphire • Museum of the City of New York, Bequest of Mrs. V. S. Young, 82.163.1

Tiffany & Co., Pendant brooch, ca. 1900 • Platinum, diamond, sapphire • Museum of the City of New York, Bequest of Mrs. V. S. Young, 82.163.1

Gilded New York will be on view from November 13 to November 30, 2014. It is organized by Albrecht, Phyllis Magidson, the City Museum’s curator of costumes and textiles, and Jeannine Falino, an independent curator.

Gilded New York • © Julie Saad Photography

Gilded New York • © Julie Saad Photography

Folding fan by Duvelleroy, c. 1900 • Painted silk, feathers, mother-of-pearl • Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Mrs. William Warner Hoppin, 48.314.15

Folding fan by Duvelleroy, c. 1900 • Painted silk, feathers, mother-of-pearl • Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Mrs. William Warner Hoppin, 48.314.15

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“At the table” vignette which includes an Akos-style pitcher by Tiffany & Co.
Ingalls Photography, 2012. All objects from the Museum of the City of New York.
Photo courtesy of Town & Country

Tiffany & Co. necklace, 1904 • Gold, diamond, pearls, turquoise, enamel • © Tiffany & Co. Archives 2013.

Tiffany & Co. necklace, 1904 • Gold, diamond, pearls, turquoise, enamel • © Tiffany & Co. Archives 2013.

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“Mrs. William B. Astor” by Carolus-Duran, 1890.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

“Ladies Toilette” scene

“Ladies Toilette” scene including a swan-billed flask retailed by Theodore B. Starr, cases, and engraved glass and silver, 1885-1910.
Courtesy of Ingalls Photography, 2012. All objects from the Museum of the City of New York.
Photo courtesy of Town & Country

Theodore B. Starr, Inc., Swan-billed flask, ca. 1890

Theodore B. Starr, Inc., Swan-billed flask, ca. 1890
Cased, engraved glass, silver
Courtesy of Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Miss Maude Lacey

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Gold caudle cup with cover on salver by Crichton Brothers, 1911.
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Satin damask wedding gown by Maison Worth, 1878 • Worn by Annie Schermerhorn • Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Miss Fannie M. Cottenet, 32.249A-B

Satin damask wedding gown by Maison Worth, 1878 • Worn by Annie Schermerhorn • Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Miss Fannie M. Cottenet, 32.249A-B

The library in the home of William H. Vanderbilt, printed in Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection, circa 1883.

The library in the home of William H. Vanderbilt, printed in Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection, circa 1883.
Photogravure / Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

Tiffany & Co. brooch, 1900 • Platinum, gold, diamond, pearls, ruby, garnet, sapphire • © Tiffany & Co. Archives 2013.

Tiffany & Co. brooch, 1900 • Platinum, gold, diamond, pearls, ruby, garnet, sapphire • © Tiffany & Co. Archives 2013.

Alexandre Cabanel, Olivia Peyton Murray Cutting (Mrs. William Bayard Cutting), 1887, oil on canvas.  Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, gift of the daughters of Mrs. William Bayard Cutting through Mrs. Bayard James.

Alexandre Cabanel, Olivia Peyton Murray Cutting (Mrs. William Bayard Cutting), 1887, oil on canvas.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, gift of the daughters of Mrs. William Bayard Cutting through Mrs. Bayard James.

Ostrich plume and aigrette toque, Madame Virot, 1896. Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Ostrich plume and aigrette toque, Madame Virot, 1896.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Opal brooch, circa 1885. Gold, opal, diamonds, enamel.

Opal brooch, circa 1885. Gold, opal, diamonds, enamel.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Harry Harkness Flagler

"At the club" vignette includes a silver flask with a seahorse design by Tiffany & Co, 1882.  Courtesy of Ingalls Photography, 2012. All objects from the Museum of the City of New York.

“At the club” vignette includes a silver flask with a seahorse design by Tiffany & Co, 1882.
Courtesy of Ingalls Photography, 2012. All objects from the Museum of the City of New York.
Photo courtesy of Town & Country

Voided velvet evening gown by Maison Worth, ca. 1894

Voided velvet evening gown by Maison Worth, ca. 1894
Worn by Mrs. Stanford White
Courtesy of Museum of the City of New York

Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt (Alva) at home in 1883.

Dressed to the nines: William K. Vanderbilt Costume Ball. March 26, 1883. Vanderbilt’s father was a great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who founded the family fortune in railroads and shipping
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Marcus & Co., Necklace, 1900 • Gold, natural pearls, demantoid garnet, enamel • Courtesy of Siegelson, New York

Marcus & Co., Necklace, 1900 • Gold, natural pearls, demantoid garnet, enamel • Courtesy of Siegelson, New York

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Mrs. DeLancey Astor Kane (Eleanora Iselin) 1888 Oil on canvas, with frame by Stanford White.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, gift of Miss Georgine Iselin

Silver presentation bowl by Tiffany & Co. inscribed "The Goelet Prize for Sloops 1889"  Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Silver presentation bowl by Tiffany & Co. inscribed “The Goelet Prize for Sloops 1889″
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Tiara by Tiffany & Co., 1894. Gold, platinum, and diamonds.  Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Tiara by Tiffany & Co., 1894. Gold, platinum, and diamonds.
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Cornelius Vanderbilt II as Louis XVI, and Mrs. Vanderbilt (Alice Claypoole Gwynne), as "Electric Light" at the Vanderbilt Ball, 1883, photographed by José Maria Mora.  Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Cornelius Vanderbilt II as Louis XVI, and Mrs. Vanderbilt (Alice Claypoole Gwynne), as “Electric Light” at the Vanderbilt Ball, 1883, photographed by José Maria Mora.
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

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The exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York includes the dress that Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt wore to this ball. Designed by Charles Frederick Worth, the most famous Parisian couturier of the day, and made of satin, velvet, and silver bullion, Mrs. Vanderbilt’s costume was meant to represent “Electric Light,” in honor of Thomas Edison’s new power station in New York. “A Worth dress was a significant status symbol,” curator Phyllis Magidson explains. “He never did house calls, not even for royalty, so clients, if they were accepted by Worth, had to travel to Paris for their fittings. And they had to have the money to buy it; A Worth dress was the most costly garment of its day.”
Photo: Wendy Goodman
Photo courtesy of New York Magazine

Bodice back detail of "Electric Light" costume by Maison Worth, 1883. Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Bodice back detail of “Electric Light” costume by Maison Worth, 1883.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Bonbonniére designed by G. Paulding Farnham for Tiffany & Co., circa 1889. Gold, platinum, and sapphires.  Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Bonbonniére designed by G. Paulding Farnham for Tiffany & Co., circa 1889. Gold, platinum, and sapphires.
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

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This 1896 portrait of Mrs. Joseph De La Mar, the wife of a wealthy Holland-born miner, is one of the many featured in the new gallery. Her look of entitled beauty perfectly summed up the new Gilded Age society, the millionaires and palace-dwellers who were soon to upstage the old guard of Mrs. Astor’s New York.
Photo: Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

Tiffany & Co., Brooch, ca. 1900 • Gold, sapphires, zircons, enamel • Copyright Tiffany & Co. Archives 2013.

Tiffany & Co., Brooch, ca. 1900 • Gold, sapphires, zircons, enamel • Copyright Tiffany & Co. Archives 2013.

Thomas Wilmer Dewing

Thomas Wilmer Dewing
DeLancey Iselin Kane, 1887
Oil on canvas, with frame by Stanford White
Courtesy of Museum of the City of New York, gift of Miss Georgine Iselin

Tiffany & Co., Perfume bottle, ca. 1895

Tiffany & Co., Perfume bottle, ca. 1895
Gold, diamonds, rock crystal, quartz, enamel
Courtesy of Museum of the City of New York/ Tiffany & Co. Archives

Byron Company, C.K.G. Billings Horseback Dinner at Sherry’s, 1903.     Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, Byron Collection.

Byron Company, C.K.G. Billings Horseback Dinner at Sherry’s, 1903.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, Byron Collection.

Gilded New York • © Julie Saad Photography 3

Gilded New York • © Julie Saad Photography
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York

Gilded New York • © Julie Saad Photography 2

Gilded New York • © Julie Saad Photography
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York

Carrier & Ives, Grand Bird's Eye View of the Great East River Suspension Bridge Connecting the Cities of New York and Brooklyn, c. 1892, lithograph. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

Carrier & Ives, Grand Bird’s Eye View of the Great East River Suspension Bridge Connecting the Cities of New York and Brooklyn, c. 1892, lithograph. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York and Gilded New York (Monacelli Press)

And now for those mansions and interiors!

Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. and John Jacob Astor IV house, 1895, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street.

Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. and John Jacob Astor IV house, 1895, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. Ultimately, to consolidate their hold on high society, the Astors commissioned a new house farther uptown.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Ballroom in Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. and John Jacob Astor IV house, 1895, at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street.

Ballroom in Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. and John Jacob Astor IV house, 1895, at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Ballroom and art gallery in William Backhouse Jr. and Caroline Astor’s house at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, photographed by Pach Brothers circa 1887.

Ballroom and art gallery in William Backhouse Jr. and Caroline Astor’s house at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, photographed by Pach Brothers circa 1887.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

A. T. Stewart house, designed by John Kellum, 1869, at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, photographed by H. N. Tiemann & Co. circa 1880.

A. T. Stewart house, designed by John Kellum, 1869, at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, photographed by H. N. Tiemann & Co. circa 1880.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

1894, Manhattan The Vanderbilt Mansion on 5th Avenue, residence of Cornelius Vanderbilt

1894, Manhattan The Vanderbilt Mansion on 5th Avenue, residence of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Houses - Cornelius Vanderbilt, 1908.  Fifth Ave. S.W. Cor. 58th Street.

Home of Cornelius Vanderbilt showing a view from the southwest corner of 5th Avenue and 58th Street. Part of a landscaped lawn and an entrance to the house on 58th Street featuring a huge stone arch can be seen
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Grand Salon, Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 1894, at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Salon designed by Jules Allard et Fils.

Grand Salon, Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 1894, at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Salon designed by Jules Allard et Fils.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

1900-New York, New York- Picture shows Fifth Avenue & 51st street, on Easter Sunday, and the row of Vanderbilt Mansions

“Vanderbilt Row,” Fifth Avenue looking north from 51st Street, photographed by the Byron Company (includes William H. Vanderbilt [left and center, two similar side-by-side houses]and William K. Vanderbilt houses [right uptown house]).
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Drawing room, William H. Vanderbilt house, at 51st and Fifth Avenue.

Drawing room, William H. Vanderbilt house, at 51st and Fifth Avenue.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Dining room, William H. Vanderbilt house, at 51st and Fifth Avenue.

Dining room, William H. Vanderbilt house, at 51st and Fifth Avenue.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

William K. Vanderbilt house, 1882, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at 52nd and Fifth Avenue; photographed by Robert Bracklow circa 1900.

William K. Vanderbilt house, 1882, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at 52nd and Fifth Avenue; photographed by Robert Bracklow circa 1900.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

Drawing room, William K. Vanderbilt house, 1882, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at 52nd and Fifth Avenue.

Drawing room, William K. Vanderbilt house, 1882, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at 52nd and Fifth Avenue.
Photo by Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York/The Monacelli Press

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