Rienzi is again open to the public after our annual August housekeeping, when we spruce up the property and upgrade equipment to make your visit comfortable and enjoyable. This August, we also celebrated an object’s homecoming: the Aubusson Carpet. Conservators Jane Gilles and Ingrid Seyb have been working for two years to stabilize 175 years of wear and tear to the stunning carpet, which is now back on view in Rienzi’s ballroom.
England’s second duke of Buckingham and Chandos commissioned the carpet for the drawing room of his country estate, Stowe House, between 1839 and 1845. The carpet was at Stowe in time for a visit from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in January 1845. Entertaining royalty can be a costly endeavor, and because the duke spent lavishly to prepare for the visit, he was forced to sell a number of household items in 1848 to alleviate his mounting debt. However, the carpet was not included in the sale and remained at Stowe until 1921. Rienzi’s founders, Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III, purchased the carpet in 1960 and donated it to the Museum in 1984.
Repairing a 175-year-old carpet may seem like a daunting task, but in the expert hands of the Museum’s conservators, the carpet has been lovingly mended.
After the carpet was mounted on two custom-made rollers, it was dry cleaned using a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner before the painstaking work of removing sticky accretions took place. Finally, careful stitches with cotton embroidery floss were made to join any openings and to fill in areas where the wool had worn away.
Stop by and see the carpet this fall on a house tour or during one of our public programs, like a Houston Grand Opera Studio recital or the annual Punch Party.