The Blisses’ architect, Lawrence Grant White (1887-1956), had purchased and installed in their Music Room an Italian Renaissance chimneypiece, surrounding it with a large arch to suggest greater monumentality. However, when the Blisses first saw the installation, they found the chimneypiece too small for the room. On the advice of the Parisian designer Armand Albert Rateau (1882-1938), the Blisses then acquired a large, French Renaissance, sixteenth-century limestone (pierre de Dordogne) chimneypiece from a New York City dealer. The mantel had come from the Château de Théobon, Loubès-Bernac, in France. The undersection of the chimneypiece has two uprights that support the lower entablature, at the center of which is a carved mask above a tablet. The upper section has elaborate pilaster decoration terminating in lion masks and acanthus-covered brackets. At the center of the upper section is an escutcheon for a painted coat of arms, now lost, and to either side are two fruit-filled cornucopias. Below this is a large, framed overmantel field for which the Blisses commissioned a topographical rendering of Dumbarton Oaks in 1935 [see HC.P.1935.01.(WC)].
Mildred Bliss was at first apprehensive that the scale of the new chimneypiece was too large and that it did not reach and connect to the ceiling. Although Rateau supplied various designs for a connecting entablature piece, he eventually advised the Blisses that the chimneypiece should be left as is, although he suggested overpainting the original light yellow stone with a patina of gray tempera. With the design problems solved, White was able to write to Robert Bliss: “I was so pleased to learn that you have bought the mantelpiece…. We will instruct Davis to take down the existing mantel and the arch.” The new chimneypiece became the focal point of the Blisses’ new Music Room.
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, 71, no. 233.
Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2008, 320f, ill.
Château de Théobon, Loubés-Bernac, France.
Purchased from Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., Inc., New York, NY (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 5/4/1929.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 5/4/1929-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.