A magnificent and comprehensive collection of glass objects is the single greatest strength of the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Decorative Arts Department. The glass collection is ranked among the top five in the United States and covers the history of the glassmaker’s art from its ancient Egyptian origins through contemporary studio glass. The NOMA glass collection presently numbers more than 12,000 objects.
The Decorative Arts Department of the New Orleans Museum of Art has magnificent examples of silver artistry. Among these are the Elinor Bright Richardson collection of English silver, which features works by the great Paul Storr, the Gross Collection of English silver covering works from the 17th Century through the 19th Century, and the Jolie and Robert Shelton Collection of Martelé American Art Nouveau Silver.
A Portrait Miniature is a small, portable painting designed as a memento of a beloved or admired person. The history of this art form began in 16th Century England and continued to be fashionable both in England and on the Continent throughout the next three centuries. In the mid-19th Century, the 400-year tradition of portrait miniatures fell into decline with the invention of photography. The majority of NOMA’s Portrait Miniature collection is from the notable Latter-Schlesinger Collection.
In 1997, the New Orleans Museum of Art received one of the most significant gifts to the Decorative Arts collection in NOMA’s history: the H. Lloyd Hawkins, Jr. Collection of nearly 350 works by the renowned Meissen Porcelain Manufactory of Saxony, Germany.
Contemporary audiences may not comprehend the mania for porcelain set off by the development of the formula for true or hard-paste porcelain at Meissen in late 1709. Among royalty and aristocrats, the possession of porcelain immediately became one of the major status symbols of the 18th Century, second only to owning an appropriate palace as a mark of rank and privilege.
Mr. Hawkins’ fascination for Meissen figures was certainly akin to that of the 18th Century collectors. He was presented the important Meissen allegorical set of The Four Elements as a gift in 1954. Over the next several decades, Mr. Hawkins acquired nearly 450 figures and groups. He was entranced by the virtuosity of the work and intrigued that the Meissen factory created an entirely new European art form when it introduced its now-celebrated figures.
French ceramics is another strength of NOMA’s collection, with a major emphasis on the porcelains of Paris from circa 1770 to circa 1870. The Paris porcelain collection at NOMA is the only one in the United States to survey the entire century-long history of these distinguished wares. Three areas of secondary concentration within the category of French ceramics are the Brooke Hayward Duchin Collection of nineteenth-century Palissy wares, Sévres porcelain of the eighteenth through the early twentieth century, and the Stern Collection of porcelain veilleuses which is focused upon the nineteenth century.
NOMA’s furniture collection includes important examples of 18th and 19th century American furniture and a small group of exquisite 18th century French pieces.
Highlights include The Rosemonde E. and Emile Kuntz Rooms, exhibiting choice examples of America’s fine and decorative arts heritage in New Orleans. The rooms were first conceived by Felix H. Kuntz [1890-1971]. His brother Emile N. Kuntz was charged with constructing and furnishing the rooms as a memorial to their parents. The rooms were completed by Mr. Kuntz’s widow, Karolyn K. Westervelt, and daughter, Rosemonde K. Capomazza de Campolattaro.
The second greatest area of concentration in NOMA’s Decorative Arts collection is American art pottery from circa 1880 to 1960, with notable strengths in the areas of Newcomb, Rookwood and Fulper Pottery. The collection numbers about 800 examples representing the production of American art pottery from coast to coast.