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 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.