Collections on Display
Eagle Feeding Her Young
Many of Henry Davis Sleeper’s records detailing the provenance of his collections are lost to us but it is highly possible that is piece is another one of his architectural salvages. One of Sleeper’s design trademarks is using interior and exterior paneling from dilapidated buildings. This sculpture, primarily made of copper could have been found on the exterior of a public building. Throughout Beauport, eagles are depicted standing upright but here – located in the North Gallery, we have a more intimate look at this rare bird.
This mantel piece is not part of Sleeper’s collection but rather was added by the second owners of Beauport, Mr. and Mrs. Charles McCann. Helena Woolworth McCann was the daughter of F.W. Woolworth and heiress to the five and dime fortune. She, a collector of export porcelain, was enchanted with Beauport and purchased the house in 1935. Realizing Sleeper’s genius, she left the majority of the house and its collections intact except for the China Trade Room which she decorated in her own taste and used for entertaining. New York design firm French and Company filled the room with high style Chippendale furniture, and European antiques including this mantel piece attributed to English sculptor Sir Henry Cheere. (1703 – 1781) As in the Sleeper tradition, this piece was architectural selvage and came from an English Manor house.
Beauport is not known for having an extensive folk art collection, however, there are some charming and noteworthy pieces including this portrait of a lady by William Matthew Prior. Prior, a native of Bath, Maine, was one of the most prominent and influential folk portrait painters of the nineteenth century. Although Sleeper did not focus on collecting folk art as did contemporaries Abby Aldrich Rockfeller, Electra Havemeyer Webb, and Nina Fletcher Little, he did recognize its significance and importance as an American art form. This portrait hangs in the Blue Willow Room, not seen on the regular tour, but can be viewed on the Nooks and Crannies program which explores the entire house.
Golden Step Ship Model
The bright, awe-inspiring Golden Step Room known for its white walls, green accents and sliding glass window takes its name from a large ship model said to have been built for the China Trade. In 1921, Sleeper created this room specifically to house this vessel putting it on a Chinese pall, or funeral table, further emphasizing the theme. Sleeper is often inspired by an object which in turn dictates the style and nature of the room. This convention is evident throughout Beauport.
Décor Chinois Wallpaper
In the Belfry Chamber hangs a floral, hand blocked wallpaper by the French firm Zuber & Cie. The pattern ‘Décor Chinois’ was originally created in 1832 to mimic eighteenth century, hand painted Chinese papers. Sleeper adds his creative flair by cutting the paper to cover the many angles in the bedroom, once referred to as a “polyhedral nightmare”. Where there are voids in the paper, he cuts out birds and foliage from elsewhere in the pattern to fill in the space. At Beauport, the paper gives the room a lush, jungle-like effect.=