Furniture to be displayed in Smithsonian exhibit

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NATCHEZ — A small but bulky and hard to move piece of Natchez history will be making its way to New York City.

A rosewood tête–tête —made about 1850 — from Melrose will be featured in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City as a part of the “Rococo: The Continuing Curve, 1730-2008” exhibit.

The tête–tête is essentially an ornate couch with an armrest in the middle

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Characterized by scrolls, curves, carved shells, flowers and fruits, the Rococo style originated in France in the 1700s. The exhibit will explore the development of the style throughout the years.

The Natchez piece ended up in the exhibit because the show’s curator, Jason Busch, wrote his master’s thesis about Natchez furniture, Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said.

“He spent an entire summer looking at every piece in Natchez,” Jenkins said.

“We find that our relationship with him is a win-win,” Jenkins said. “He gets to put on great shows and we get to show the great collection we are stewards of to the world.”

To move the piece, the involved parties worked with a furniture conservator and got strict instructions on how the piece should be crated and moved.

“It has to be supported from below so the fragile legs won’t give way and supported from the back so the crest won’t be anywhere near to touching the side of the crate,” Jenkins said.

Sending the piece off does make Jenkins a little nervous, she said.

“I feel the trepidation any mother feels when they send their babies away from home,” she said. “We are stewards of a great collection here, but we are dealing with professionals who have taken every step to make sure it is taken care of.”

A piece from Stanton Hall was also considered for the exhibit, but did not make it because there was no place where it could be kept without the risk of damage, Ethel Banta with Stanton Hall said.

“We really hate that they couldn’t find a place for it, but now we’ll have it for Pilgrimage,” Banta said.

The exhibit will run from March 7 through July 6.