Perhaps more than any other architectural feature of the Music Room, the acquisition in 1927 of these two Italian Renaissance Red Verona marble arches solidified the design conception for the new room. Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss found the two arches at a Parisian antiquities dealer where they were said to be from Ravenna and to have been in the Havilland Collection in Limoges. Robert Bliss wrote their architect, Lawrence Grant White, on November 23, 1926: “I am sending you a photograph of a marble arch of which we discovered two in Paris. Do you think they could be used in the music-room, let us say for the entrance door and corresponding recess…?”
The acquisition of the two arches established the Renaissance-revival concept of the Music Room. The use of additional marble in the room, however, was controversial because Robert Bliss believed that, “If the room is dadoed in marble it will tend to make it formal and also a bit brilliant acoustically, whereas French marble stucco à l’italienne … might make the room warmer and more ‘amusing’ and personal.” However, White advised that the arches now required the use of honed Red Verona marble for the dado and border of the room, and he recommended “reproducing the detail of the two “antique archways” for the surround of the monumental Palladian bay on the west side of the room. [New-York Historical Society, McKim, Mead & White Papers, Bliss House]
Each of the arches has fish-scale patterned supports that terminate in composite capitals of acanthus leafage and scrolls. These support a semicircular arch with various moldings and carvings in the ancient Roman style. Although both arches have a modest reveal, it is clear that they were originally used as part of a wall or façade rather than as part of an open arcade.
Thompson, Arthur P. "Inventory and Appraisal of the Personal Property Owned by the Hon. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss." Washington, DC: typescript, 7/29/1938, 71a, no. 233a.
Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2008, 322f, ill.
Reportedly from Ravenna, Italy.
Reportedly in the Havilland Collection, Limoges, France.
Purchased from Bacri Frères Antiquaires, Paris (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 1/8/1927.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 1/8/1927-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.