The Louisiana Gallery
Located inside the DAR Museum
The DAR Museum is made up of thirty-one period rooms within the Beaux-Arts-style Memorial Continental Hall. It houses an outstanding collection of approximately 30,000 objects made or used in America prior to the Industrial Revolution. This collection of decorative and fine arts includes furniture, ceramics, glass, silver, and other base metal objects, textiles (quilts, coverlets, needlework pictures, and samplers), costumes, jewelry, paintings, musical, and scientific instruments. Each room is furnished in the style of a particular period or region of colonial and early America. Together they trace the changing lifestyles of the United States from the 17th through the 20th centuries.
The Louisiana Period Room is arranged as a gallery. The rich cultural heritage of Louisiana is in part reflected by the objects displayed of Native American, French and Acadian origin. Not represented in this room, but an essential part of this state’s cultural history as well is the influence of the African American, Spanish and Creole (i.e., mixed European and African/African-American heritage) peoples.
The collection of American Indian tools and utilitarian and ceremonial objects range in time from the prehistoric to the 20th century. Some of the early tools were excavated at Poverty Point, the site of the earliest known Indian settlement in the Louisiana area. The intricate weaving patterns used in the late 19th- and 20th-century baskets demonstrate the fine craftsmanship of the northern Louisiana native tribes. Viewed collectively, the artifacts show a glimpse of these indigenous people’s past and a continuity of their traditions into this century.
The strong French influence on furniture styles in Louisiana was perpetuated by the influx of European born and trained cabinetmakers. Perhaps, too, they in turn transmitted their skills and styles to apprentices who adapted and modified these European traditions for the local market.
Most of the Louisiana Room furnishings were made between 1800-1860, constructed of woods indigenous to the Lower Mississippi Valley—cypress, cherry, poplar and white pine. Others are primarily of walnut and have possible early Louisiana histories. The Louisiana Room consists of:
Features of the Louisiana Gallery
The two late Neoclassical chairs—1830-1845—with black horsehair upholstery are structured in the manner of Francois Seignouret. A famed French cabinetmaker, Seignouret worked in New Orleans from about 1812 to 1853 when he returned to France. These chairs reflect the klismos form that this master craftsman adapted from the Greek model to his own work.
The curved and molded crest rails sweep down to join side rails that form the low arm supports.
The small Louisiana or lower Mississippi River Valley cherry armoire (or wardrobe) of 1810-1820, is an important form representative of the French influence in this region. Stylistically kin to French provincial, French-Canadian and other ethnic forms of wardrobes, it is simple in design and sometimes identifiable by woods (especially cypress as a secondary wood).
The armoire in the Louisiana Room is constructed in the usual form of this furniture type—two full-length doors that conceal upper shelves and a clutch of three to four drawers for the storage of clothing and textiles.
The 1837 portrait of Princess Achille Murat (née Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray) provides a link between historical American and French leaders. The princess, a grandniece of George Washington, was married in 1826 to Prince Napoleon Achille Murat, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Acadians were originally French settlers of Nova Scotia who were expelled by the English, beginning in 1755, for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Many Acadians chose the Louisiana territory with its large population of people of French origin. Mostly settling in more isolated areas, the Acadians, today known as the Cajuns, managed to maintain their special traditions.
A blanket and rug of homespun and home-dyed cotton are Acadian and displayed in the Louisiana Room. The blanket is from the 19th century and is woven of pink-dyed and natural brown cotton.