Get thee to Williamsburg

Editorial Staff Exhibitions

If there’s bright spot in the heart of late winter, it’s the Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum. This year’s edition, the seventy-first, opens on February 22nd and runs through the 26th, with the theme “Hidden Treasures: New Findings and Rediscoveries.”

Treasures is surely the operative word. The forum promises something for fans of just about every category of the decorative arts. Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Beth Carver Wees will discuss jewelry; Virginia-based scholar and antiques dealer Sumpter Priddy will talk about regional Baroque furniture; and social historian Amanda Vickery comes from the University of London to present “The Rise of the West End: London, the Season and Shopping.” Meantime specialists from the Colonial Williamsburg curatorial staff will discuss topics that range from furniture conservation and numismatics to hooked rugs and antique glass.

  • Portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth by William Dering, c. 1745. Oil on canvas. Collection of Colonial Williamsburg, gift of Julia Miles Brock, Edward Taliaferro Miles, and Georgianna Serpell Miles in memory of their mother, Alice Taliaferro Miles.

The forum’s closing keynote session will be a particular treat, as it features a chat between two of the most informed and engaging—and certainly tallest—members of the community of decorative arts historians:  Tom Savage of the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library and interior decorator Thomas Jayne.

The two are longtime friends and professional associates, having met at the Victorian Society in the late 1980s. “We’re simpatico,” says Jayne. “We’re both nice people, but slightly irreverent; serious with a sense of humor.”

  • Teapot marked by Andrew Fogelberg, 1771-1772. Sterling silver and wood. Collection of Colonial Williamsburg, gift of Angus Sladen of Hampshire, England, a descendent of the fourth earl of Dunmore.

In the early 1990s, when Savage was director of museums for Historic Charleston, Jayne decorated his carriage house. The work was featured in House Beautiful, and was one of Jayne’s first projects to be published. “The article was called ‘Playing With History,’” Savage told us in a note. “That is a theme that runs and continues to run through Thomas' work. Not preserved in aspic historicist recreated history, but fluid history drawing on equal parts past and present. Thomas always includes important elements of one's own history in his rooms. He is steeped in knowledge of the past but very much grounded in the present. He is an important bridge between these two eras.”

The nominal topic of their discussion in Williamsburg will be Jayne’s latest book, Classical Principles for Modern Design—a rumination on the Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman classic The Decoration of Houses. “What makes that book so great is that Wharton and Codman had such strong personalities,” says Jayne. “So rather than just talk about my book, Tom and I decided to chat about some of the great personalities we’ve both known in our careers. The humanity around the decorative arts is what makes it all interesting.” Sounds very intriguing to us.

  • Thomas Jayne.

  • Tom Savage.