Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mrs. Astor's Ballroom and Art Gallery

Mrs. Astor's ballroom had always been society's inner sanctum and her original ballroom's capacity  had been the magic number of how many people where in society, 400 people. Her new ballroom, however, could hold much more than that, 1,200 people to be exact, making it the largest private ballroom in the city. Instead of having a separate space for an art gallery, Mrs. Astor decided that her ballroom would also house her art collection. The Astor art collection had been expanded so much over the years that the ballroom had to be big enough to hold it all, 100 paintings in all. Among the famous art collection was Ferdinand Roybet's The Connoisseurs, Jules Lefebvre's Odalisque, Jean Corot's Monte Pincio, Rome, Detaille's French Artillery and Van Marcke's Dans les Dunes.

           The Connoisseurs

                        By Ferdinand Roybet

                    By Jules Lefebvre

            Monte Pincio, Rome
                      By Jean Corot

            French Artillery
                       By Jean Detaille

       Dans les Dunes
              By Emile van Marcke

Also in the Ballroom were several pieces of furniture most of which had come from her original ballroom at 34th Street.

Mrs. Astor's banquette (The Throne)
found a place in the new ballroom too,
just where it was in her original ballroom, right in front of the fireplace although this time it was facing the fireplace. During balls it would be on a raised dais with smaller cushions around it for the few privileged.

The two red velvet lounge chairs on either side of the fireplace in the original ballroom also found the same spot in the new one. These chairs were normally occupied by observers who did not participate in the quadrille and who only wished to watch.

The white satin rose patterned armchair found it's way to the new ballroom as well. This time in the opposite corner, of the ballroom. This chair was a Schermerhorn Family heirloom and had been in Caroline's family many years. It had been given to her by her father as a wedding present.

The large gilt candelabra found places near the fireplace, just like in the original ballroom. This candelabra was special to Caroline in the fact that it had been a wedding present from her husband, William. William had searched all over Europe for the perfect set of candelabra for his soon-to- be wife. He had finally come across a set at an auction and bought them $1,540. Caroline had decided to place them in her art gallery/ballroom at the 34th Street mansion and when she made the tough move she brought them with her and placed them near the fireplace in her new ballroom, where  they could burn as brightly as they had before.  

All of these pieces helped Caroline to remember where she started in society and she could not and would not abandon them. Her new ballroom helped to show Caroline's power and putting furniture from her original ballroom, society's inner sanctum, into her new one showed that traces of the original "400" still lingered although Caroline must have recognized that society was expanding, because she had her new ballroom built to hold 1,200 people comfortably.


  1. Great article Mr. Hughes that gives us a tangible "window" into the actual Ballroom of Mrs. Astor, with the lovely furnishings! C.Lyons

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