After a 17 month comprehensive conservation project, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has re-opened the Salon Doré from the Hôtel de La Trémoille at the Legion of Honor.
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Developed by Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European decorative arts and sculpture, this complete refurbishment of one of the finest existing examples of 18th century French interior design emphasizes the original use of the room and sets a new standard for the presentation of museum period rooms.
“The Salon Doré will be the only pre-Revolutionary Parisian salon in the United States displayed with its full complement of furnishings. Returning the room to its original glory and revealing its initial purpose, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present the Salon Doré as an example of how a period room can engage a 21st century audience,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Moved no fewer than eight times since its creation in 1781, the Salon Doré was left greatly compromised by its extensive history of relocation and reconfiguration. The major research and conservation undertaking by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco revitalizes the salon’s architectural and aesthetic integrity by returning the room to its original floor plan, restoring the gilding and paint, and installing a parquet floor, a coved ceiling, windows and a new lighting scheme.
“The aim of this project has been to reinstate this paneling as an architectural entity as well as recreating its program for furnishing based on the 1790 inventory of the room. It was also to provide a full picture of how these salons functioned in the years before the Revolution swept away the culture of the ancien régime and to understand the essential relationship between the furniture and the interior architecture,” said Martin Chapman.
In order to achieve this extensive restoration project, a laboratory was set up in an adjacent gallery that could be viewed by visitors to the museum. In this space, up to 16 specialists worked on the carving and gilding under the direction of Fine Arts Museums’ head objects conservator, Lesley Bone, and the museums’ conservator of frames and gilded surfaces, Natasa Morovic.
The furniture’s upholstery was researched and executed by Xavier Bonnet of Atelier Saint-Louis, Paris. The silk incorporated in the room was woven by Tassinari and Chatel in Lyon, France to a design matched to an 18th century document in that city’s Musée de Tissus et des Arts décoratifs.
The trimming by Declercq was laboriously made using traditional techniques and designs derived from 18th century models. The conservation portion of the project executed in France was managed by Benjamin Steinitz of Galerie Steinitz.
The richly carved and gilded paneling of the Salon Doré was designed during the reign of Louis XVI for the main salon de compagnie, or reception room, of the Hôtel de La Trémoille on the Rue Saint-Dominique. Its architecture, with giant gilded Corinthian pilasters nearly 15 feet high framing four arched mirrors and complemented by four massive doors, was intended to evoke the grandeur of ancient Rome. The design of the paneling, or boiserie, resembles the French neoclassical style of the Legion of Honor itself, which is modeled after the 18th century Hôtel de Salm in Paris, today the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur.
Donors to the renovation of the Salon Doré
Major patrons: Cynthia Fry Gunn and John A. Gunn in memory of John E. Buchanan Jr; corporate sponsor: Breguet; patrons: Jamie and Philip Bowles, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Staffan Encrantz, The European Decorative Arts Council, The Fifth Age of Man Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Richard W. Goss II, F. Scott Gross and Terry S. Gross, Mr. and Mrs. William Hamilton, Françoise and Andrew Skurman, Mr. Benjamin Steinitz in memory of Bernard B. Steinitz, The Michael Taylor Trust, and Diane B. Wilsey. Patron Gifts in Memory of John E. Buchanan Jr, Mr. and Mrs. Adolphus Andrews Jr, The Kimball Foundation, Jeannik Méquet Littlefield, Denise Littlefield Sobel, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Osher, Constance Crowley Peabody and Lonna Wais.
“The Salon Doré from the Hôtel de La Trémoille” explores the salon’s origins in late 18th century Paris, chronicles its history in France and the United States from the end of the 1700s to the early 2000s, and celebrates its reinstallation in San Francisco today. Including a detailed account of salon life under the ancien régime, the original 1790 inventory, and an examination of the extensive conservation project undertaken to restore it to its former glory, the book pays tribute to a superlative period room.
Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street in San Francisco and is open 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; open select holidays; closed most Mondays.
General admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors 65 and above, $6 students with current ID and $6 youths 13–17. Members and children 12 and under are admitted free. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month. Tickets available at legionofhonor.org.