Maggie Lidz, Winterthur’s Estate Historian writes:
One of the garden’s most notable landmark’s is absent this fall. Recently, the iron gate on the staircase niche above the Campbell’s Soup Tureen collection was removed for conservation and repair. The gate, which creates a visual focus in the massive limestone staircase leading up to the East Terrace, has been there since 1931.
Staircase Iron Gate, April 2011
The Story of the Gate
In 1928, when HF du Pont commissioned landscape architect Marian Coffin to work with him at Winterthur, he made garden ornaments a priority: “I have a great number of figures, benches, wall fountains etc. collected over a period of years, which I thought could be used to advantage here.” She planned accordingly.
Marian Coffin’s Drawing of the Staircase
Coffin submitted this design, complete with the gate, for the staircase for approval. The history of the gate before it arrived at Winterthur has been lost. However, in 1982, the late, highly respected architectural historian Robert L. Alexander examined it. He judged it to be an example of 17th century northern Italian, possibly Venetian, ironwork.
Detail from a print of ‘A View of the Rialto Bridge’ in the Winterthur collection
Recently, Winterthur Trustee David Warren noted that the gate is similar in size to a traditional Venetian water gate, but more research needs to be done.
Close-up of the gate, Spring 2013
Over the decades, the gate has suffered minor damage, which have accelerated into rust and disrepair. In early 2013, this gate was judged to be in critical condition and in need of extensive, (and expensive), repairs and conservation.
The Gate’s Angel
Every year, the Venetian Carnival begins with the Flight of the Angel. Winterthur is very lucky to have terrific supporters.
Elise du Pont, the Gate’s Angel
Elise du Pont, founding president of Winterthur’s Garden and Landscape Society (affectionately known as ‘Wiggles’ for initials WGLS), has come to the rescue of the gate. She is paying for the gate’s treatment, which is a landmark of a different sort: the gate will be the first Winterthur object to get treated by laser.
Staircase and Gate, circa 1931
Look forward to seeing the gate in its usual position in the spring, looking as beautiful as it did in 1931.