French Restoration and French Quarter Frolic

After a 17-month comprehensive conservation project, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are about to re-open the Salon Doré from the Hôtel de La Trémoille at the Legion of Honor on April 5.

By Paul Duclos

Published: April, 2014

After a 17-month comprehensive conservation project, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are about to re-open the Salon Doré from the Hôtel de La Trémoille at the Legion of Honor on April 5.

Developed by Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European decorative arts and sculpture, this complete refurbishment of one of the finest existing examples of 18th century French interior design emphasizes the original use of the room, and sets a new standard for the presentation of museum period rooms.

"The Salon Doré will be the only pre-French Revolution Parisian salon in the United States displayed with its full complement of furnishings. Returning the room to its original glory and revealing its initial purpose, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present the Salon Doré as an example of how a period room can engage a 21st century audience," said Colin Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

Moved no fewer than eight times since its creation in 1781, the Salon Doré was left greatly compromised by its extensive history of relocation and reconfiguration. The major research and conservation undertaking by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco revitalizes the salon’s architectural and aesthetic integrity by returning the room to its original floor plan, restoring the gilding and paint, and installing a parquet floor, a coved ceiling, windows and a new lighting scheme.

"The aim of this project has been to reinstate this paneling as an architectural entity as well as recreating its program for furnishing based on the 1790 inventory of the room. It was also to provide a full picture of how these salons functioned in the years before the French Revolution swept away the culture of the ancien régime and to understand the essential relationship between the furniture and the interior architecture," said Chapman.

In order to achieve this extensive restoration project, a laboratory was set up in an adjacent gallery that could be viewed by visitors to the museum. In this space, up to 16 specialists worked on the carving and gilding under the direction of Fine Arts Museums’ head objects conservator, Lesley Bone, and the Museums’ conservator of frames and gilded surfaces, Natasa Morovic. The furniture’s upholstery was researched and executed by Xavier Bonnet of Atelier Saint-Louis, Paris. The silk incorporated in the room was woven by Tassinari and Chatel in Lyon, France to a design matched to an 18th century document in that city’s Musée de Tissus et des Arts décoratifs. The trimming by Declercq was laboriously made using traditional techniques and designs derived from 18th century models. The conservation portion of the project executed in France was managed by Benjamin Steinitz of Galerie Steinitz.

The richly carved and gilded paneling of the Salon Doré was designed during the reign of Louis XVI for the main salon de compagnie, or reception room, of the Hôtel de La Trémoille on the Rue Saint-Dominique. Its architecture—with giant gilded Corinthian pilasters nearly 15 feet high framing four arched mirrors and complemented by four massive doors—was intended to evoke the grandeur of ancient Rome. The design of the paneling, or boiserie, resembles the French neoclassical style of the Legion of Honor itself, which is modeled after the 18th century Hôtel de Salm in Paris.

Merola Opera Program honors the late Lotfi Mansouri at the annual 2014 Spring Benefit Gala Saturday, April 12, at the Fairmont San Francisco. Former San Francisco Opera General Director Lotfi Mansouri was a long-time Merola supporter and A Night in New Orleans pays homage to his artistic legacy both in San Francisco and throughout the world. The gala features a silent auction with an emphasis on fine wines and Merola’s signature once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres begin the evening at 6 p.m. followed by a formal three-course dinner and a concert featuring the 2014 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows. After-dinner drinks and dancing conclude the festivities until midnight. Proceeds from the evening will support the Merola Opera Program, one of the top young artist training programs in the world.

In addition to a beautiful offering of fine wines, travel opportunities and other exciting events, highlights of the Merola Silent Auction include its "signature events." These unique events offer patrons a chance to participate and interact with the world’s leading opera artists in private concerts and conversations in the intimate setting of a private home. "Merola’s signature events are really very special and always hot, sell-out items at our Gala," said auction chair Carlyn Clause. Leading the effort this year is board member Patrick Wilken, who has curated an exciting array of recitals with renowned artists such as Merola alumni Leah Crocetto, Nadine Sierra, Daniela Mack, René Barbera and Alek Shrader, as well as exclusive conversations with Carol Vaness, Quinn Kelsey, Eric Owens and John DeMain. In addition, the auction will once again feature an extensive selection of more than 65 bottles of fine wines with experts on hand to answer questions and assist guests in choosing the perfect bottles for their bids.