Rienzi, the MFAH house museum for European decorative arts, presents special exhibitions twice a year. Decorative Arts in the Age of Victoria showcases objects from both the MFAH and Rienzi collections.
During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), the British Empire reached its geographical, financial, and industrial peak. The art, architecture, and design created in those years were inspired by European artistic traditions as well as cultures across the globe.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was organized by the queen’s husband, Prince Albert, to display the wonders of industry and manufactured products from around the world. Decorative arts were shown in revivals of Classical, Renaissance, and Rococo styles—sometimes copied quite closely, but often combined or reinterpreted to create a variety of novel forms and motifs. Historical decorative techniques were also adapted to modern manufacturing processes.
Decorative Arts in the Age of Victoria features works of art that illustrate the dual drives of the British to historicize and modernize their world. Among the examples on view are porcelain, glass, jewelry, miniatures, wallpaper, and furniture.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, Victorian Imagery and Design: The Essential Reference is a richly detailed, authentic, and engrossing compendium drawing upon Dover's archives to present a pictorial survey of the Victorian world. Sources include historical periodicals such as Harper's Weekly,The Illustrated London News, and Punch as well as printers' and trade catalogs, architectural graphics, and patterns for fabric and wall decoration by William Morris, Christopher Dresser, and other designers.
Hundreds of color and black-and-white images offer glimpses of social history from the great book illustrators of the era as well as ordinary and extraordinary everyday objects, including displays of glassware, furniture, needlework, and stained glass windows from the famous Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851.
Detailed bibliographical information concerning every source ― including biographical details of each artist ― makes this collection a vital reference tool as well as a stunning compendium of Victorian graphic and pictorial art and illustration.