Decorative Arts Collection

From medieval stained glass to 21st-century bronze furniture, the Decorative Arts collection includes American and European period rooms, furniture, metalwork, glass, textiles and ceramics. Decorative arts have been an integral part of the Museum’s collecting from the start. Today, the collection contains incomparable works conveying the highest artistic achievements of European and American art.

Works made during the 18th century form the greatest concentration in the Decorative Arts collection, such as European pottery and porcelain, English silver, French furniture and European and American period rooms from the middle of the century.  Recent acquisitions, however, have focused on European and American late 19th- and early 20th-century furniture, ceramics and silver.

The decorative arts collections are integrated into the Museum’s galleries with paintings, sculpture and works on paper, allowing visitors to make connections between objects that evoke a greater understanding of the social, economic, political, religious and artistic contexts of the past.

The 18th Century
The collection’s greatest strength is in 18th-century ceramics, silver, furniture and interiors. The Burnap Collection of English Pottery, with more than 1,300 examples of slipware, delftware and stoneware, is the most important collection of pre-industrial British pottery outside Britain. More than 100 works of British silver, donated in 1999 by the Folgers Coffee Corporation, illustrate the development and refinement of silver coffee wares. The Wallenstein collection of 160 wine glasses illustrates the development of the wine glass during the 18th century.

Presented to the Nelson-Atkins by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr, the Starr Collection of Miniatures provides an excellent illustration of the history of European portrait miniatures, ranging from the late-16th century to the 19th century with more than 250 examples.

Two of the most significant period rooms are the Gabinetto (Withdrawing Room) from a villa in Turin (ca. 1740), and the Drawing Room from the Robert Hooper House of Danvers, Massachusetts (ca. 1754), which reflects the sophistication and aspirations of America’s burgeoning merchant class.

Also notable are examples of French mid-18th-century cabinetwork, including two important commodes by Charles Cressent and Adam Weisweiler.

The 19th and 20th Centuries
The growing collection of late-19th- and early 20th-century European and American decorative arts includes a rare Coupe de Rivoli by the French porcelain factory of Sevres and an ivory inlaid ebony Panel by the Roman artist Giovanni Battista Gatti, both from the mid-19th century.

Early-20th-century works include a stunning silver tea service by the Austrian architect and designer Josef Hoffmann, from about 1923, an American Arts and Crafts Movement bookcase from the Robert R. Blacker House in Pasadena, California, designed by the architects and furniture designers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene and a remarkable Hanging Lamp formed by two large dragonflies.

Ron Arad’s London Papardelle chair, an important example of contemporary design, is a new direction for the collection. The Museum also holds significant modern and contemporary ceramics including important works by Beatrice Wood, Ken Ferguson and Edward Eberle.