This Distinguished Presentation of a Famous Period in French Building Is One of the Finest Examples in this Country. It Recalls Marie Antoinette and Her Influence on 18th Century Art.
|Significant detail, skilfully introduced in the main facade, emphasizes the French feeling in the Mason house.|
In upper Fifth Avenue is a handsome white stone and marble residence, designed in the style of Louis 16th by Warren & Wetmore, New York architects, that is peculiarly reminiscent of Marie Antoinette and the gay court at Versailles in the latter part of the 17th and early part of the 18th centuries. The refinement of the architecture of the times, shown in the main facade, is harmoniously reflected in the interior, where a great wealth of detail recalls the influence of the famous French Queen and her Royal Consort on the art of the period.
Decorative effects are gained by ornamental detail of great refinement as in the Mason house, by the adaptation of a rarely beautiful frieze of carved stone and, in particular, by the distinction of the second tier windows with their classic pediments, pictorial stone rails and the carved framing about the windows upheld by corbels.
Curiously enough we have comparatively few examples of pure Louis 16th architecture in this country but many done in the florid Rococo or the later and ornate Renaissance. Those done in the former fashion today arouse little or no enthusiasm on the part of the laity but, on the contrary, a feeling more or less of aversion.
|Main Stair Railing. Residence of R. L. Beeckman, Esq., 854 Fifth Ave.. New York. Warren & Wetmore, Architects.|
Made by The Gorham Company.
|Reminiscent of the gay court at Versailles in the time of Louis 16th is this palatial staircase, patterned after that in the Petit Trianon.|
|A cove ceiling and rich crimson damask wall hangings with draperies closely allied in color and texture are all delightfully French of the Louis 16th period.|
|One end of the reception room, illustrative of the refinement of wall treatment in the days of Marie Antoinette|
|The treatment of the mantel and chimney piece, with painted oval, is distinctly characteristic of the times.|
|Superb in size and decorative magnificence is the grand salon, the walls ornamented in the fashion of the period, with crystal chandeliers of 18th century pattern and rich crimson satin hangings.|
|Daintily painted walls mark the grand salon, with overdoors reminiscent of the work of Boucher fils.|
|Breaking sharply away from the prevailing French style, the treatment of the dining room, of great grandeur, follows Italian precedent.|
|Done in Italian Renaissance, the dining-room doors have an air of great dignity, in accord with their surroundings.|
To find so many authentic pieces of the late 18th century is quite remarkable, for in the reaction of the transition of the period against the florid Rococo a hiatus ensued and from the death of Louis 15th and the accession to the throne of his successor, quite a time elapsed before the style attained maturity and in the interim most of the original drawings of Louis 16th furniture were lost. Fortunately, many examples of the type were preserved and from them the style, supposed to have been inspired in great measure by Madame de Pompadour, were reconstructed. Recently however, according to a high authority, many of the original designs have been traced.
|Cut from a solid block of marble is the balustrade perforated with scroll and acanthus motif that rises from the second floor.|
France at the time the new style came into existence, about 1750, was in a state of confusion. The preceding reign had gone so far along the road of extravagance and exotic taste as to call down upon its head abundant criticism, for its fantastic elaboration, especially in interior decoration and furniture. An excess of or ornamentation was to be seen in the furniture which abounded in such motifs as broken curves, shells, scrolls and the like. There was also a profuse use of mirrors, with the background of the rooms done in white and gold while baroque detail was popular in wall treatment.
The situation, when Louis Quinze came to the throne, showed, as one wise person suggested "the architectural tendency pulling in one direction, the decorative tendency in another." The whole period was distinguished by the strong architectural reaction in favor of simplicity and, while it has become historically known by his name, his influence upon it covered in all not more than thirty years.
Everywhere at this time the English influence was dominant and English ideas were in the air. It was during the time when the Brothers Adam were startling England with their marvelous craftsmanship, and their work bore the imprint of refinement and simplicity, based on a great devotion to the classic style. It is the Adam influence that is so strongly felt in the development of the French style.
It was from 1730 to 1790 that the Louis 16th style prevailed and in the sixty year interim there were several different phases of the same expression that showed themselves but the general characteristics were in all respects those by which it had subsequently been known. And, while the ruler of the Court of Versailles lent the style royal favor and for 150 years it has borne his name, the honor of its origin or development should go to two French architects from the town of Lyons, Jean Nicholas Servandoy and Jacques Germain Soufflot who, imbued with the loftiest ideals, lent themselves to the task of recreating a declining style of architecture and establishing a type that has brought the homage of celebrated people all the world over to its feet. The End.
When these photos were taken 854 Fifth Avenue was owned by George Grant Mason. It was originally built for Robert Livingston Beeckman in 1905. Mason purchased house in 1912 fully furnished. Before being sold to the Yugoslavian Government(now Permanent Mission of the Republic of Serbia) in 1946, Emily Vanderbilt Sloane(White) owned property after selling her side of her father's house, 642 Fifth Avenue. Click THIS LINK to read more on the timeline of the property. Click THIS LINK for more on the Vanderbilt connection.
Wikimapia location and Bing Streetside view.