Category Archives: Robert Campbell

Reflections of the Past


Camp­bell House­’s Scot­tron mir­ror, August 2013

Part of what makes a vis­it to the Camp­bell House Muse­um such an expe­ri­ence is the enor­mous num­ber of orig­i­nal pieces of fur­ni­ture and knick-knack­ery that fill the halls of the 160-year-old home.  From tables and chairs to armoires and a piano, the house has quite the col­lec­tion of Vic­to­ri­ana.  But occa­sion­al­ly, much like the house itself, these items need a lit­tle elbow grease and T.L.C. to keep them in tip-top shape.  A per­fect exam­ple of this is the adjustable dou­ble mir­ror that can be found in a cor­ner of the Camp­bell House library (see the bot­tom of the page for some up close and per­son­al snap­shots of some of the mir­ror’s detail).

The mir­ror’s design was patent­ed in 1868 by Samuel Scot­tron. Scot­tron was a promi­nent African Amer­i­can inven­tor from Brook­lyn, New York who began his career as a bar­ber and would even­tu­al­ly be grant­ed four U.S. patents.  This par­tic­u­lar piece is unique because Scot­tron designed it so that users could “see them­selves as oth­ers see them.”  In oth­er words, the mir­ror could be adjust­ed so your reflec­tion was reflect­ed, revers­ing the mir­rored image. (Try and say that three times fast.)


Scot­tron’s dou­ble mir­ror patent, ca. 1868


Samuel Scot­tron

In the mod­el the Camp­bel­l’s owned, a pair of fan­cy cast iron arms and a high stand sup­port a pair of wal­nut oval-shaped mir­ror frames that swiv­el in all direc­tions.  (As a side note, if you can believe it, the mir­ror was pur­chased for the muse­um at the 1941 Camp­bell estate auc­tion for $5.50!)

How­ev­er, a few years ago, as the muse­um’s restora­tion drew to a close, the mir­ror was in pret­ty rough shape.  In the 1960s, one of the wood frames and mir­rors had gone miss­ing, mak­ing the impres­sive dou­ble mir­ror pret­ty well use­less in terms of its orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed method of use.


The Camp­bells’ Scot­tron dou­ble mir­ror in the library, ca. 1885

Luck­i­ly, muse­um mem­ber and mas­ter car­pen­ter Don Dill worked long and hard to com­plete restora­tion work on the mir­ror, replac­ing the miss­ing piece and restor­ing it to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion. The mir­ror is still in the same room in which it has sat since the last half of the 19th cen­tu­ry.  (see some detail pho­tos of the mir­ror at the bot­tom of this post)

Don’s work goes hand in hand with the Muse­um’s efforts to con­serve and restore its col­lec­tion of orig­i­nal objects and arti­facts, seen most recent­ly in the hang­ing of lav­ish new draperies in the par­lor sev­er­al weeks ago.


CHM par­lor & new­ly installed draperies, May 2013.

Click here to read more about the par­lor draperies project,recently fea­tured in Ladue News’ Ele­gant Liv­ing publication.


Scot­tron’s” detail on back of mirror


Detail — left side of mirror


Pat’d March 31 1868” detail on back of mirror

Extra! Extra! Read/Watch/Listen All About Us!

If you’ve picked up a paper, browsed online, lis­tened to the radio or turned on your TV in the last few weeks, chances are you’ve seen or heard some­thing about Camp­bell House, rang­ing from cov­er­age of our 70th Anniver­sary to the new Glo­ri­ous Gowns exhi­bi­tion that runs through the end of 2013. This week, instead of shar­ing a thrilling his­tor­i­cal nugget or some event­ful sto­ry of hap­pen­ings here in the house, we thought we’d con­sol­i­date all of the great press we’ve been get­ting over the past few weeks and give you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to peruse the dif­fer­ent sto­ries- chances are you’ll come away with some tid­bit of infor­ma­tion about CHM that you did­n’t know before!

WILA cou­ple of weeks back, Direc­tor Andy sat down with Sean Antho­ny of Hub­bard Radio’s “Talk of the Town” (which airs on 92.3 WIL, 101 ESPN, and 106.5 The Arch here in St. Louis) to give the dish on Camp­bell House and its his­to­ry.  The inter­view aired on Sun­day, July 21st and has been uploaded to our YouTube page in two parts for your audi­to­ry delight. (click here to lis­ten to part 1 of the inter­view, click here to lis­ten to the sec­ond half).

Forum JournalSome more great press came from the Forum Jour­nal, pub­lished by the Nation­al Trust for His­toric Preser­va­tion.  Their arti­cle looks at Camp­bell House and its involve­ment with the Eugene Field House and the Gri­ot Muse­um of Black His­to­ry in the Urban Muse­um Col­lab­o­ra­tive, a coop­er­a­tive net­work of small muse­ums in the St. Louis area.  (Click here to read the article).

WinterthurThe crown jew­el of our recent print media cov­er­age is a recent arti­cle by Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor and researcher Hei­di Kolk in the well-respect­ed Win­terthur Port­fo­lio, pub­lished by the Win­terthur Muse­um in Delaware.  Win­terthur is nation­al­ly renowned as the author­i­ty on dec­o­ra­tive arts in the Unit­ed States, and we’re hon­ored to have been fea­tured! (Click here to find more infor­ma­tion on this article.)

Ladue Blog

Ladue News was kind enough to fea­ture us twice in the past few weeks.  The first piece cov­ers some gen­er­al his­to­ry of the house and the new­ly installed draperies in the par­lor (click here to read), and the oth­er, fea­tured in their spe­cial wed­ding edi­tion, takes a clos­er look at the third floor wed­ding gown exhi­bi­tion, fea­tur­ing some great pho­tos (click here to read).

We were also excit­ed to be fea­tured in GO! Mag­a­zine, a pub­li­ca­tion of the St. Louis Post-Dis­patch, which tells the sto­ry of the Muse­um’s once-expan­sive cos­tume col­lec­tion and our 70th anniver­sary (click here to read).

One of the things we’re par­tic­u­lar­ly jazzed about around these parts is the piece that aired recent­ly on KSDK Chan­nel 5’s Show Me St. Louis.  Reporter Coreen Sav­ist­ki came out and inter­viewed Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Andy, got the low-down on some of Vir­gini­a’s dress­es and pro­vid­ed some stel­lar pub­lic­i­ty for the muse­um as we head into the fall! (read the arti­cle and watch the TV spot here)


Glorious Gowns” on Display

ladue2If you haven’t had a chance to stop by Camp­bell House in the past cou­ple of months, you’re in for a treat on your next vis­it. Now through the end of Decem­ber 2013, we’re hold­ing a spe­cial exhi­bi­tion of ‘Glo­ri­ous Gowns’ from the Camp­bell House col­lec­tion.  A par­tic­u­lar­ly excit­ing aspect of this dis­play can be found in our third floor exhi­bi­tion rooms, where we’re get­ting the chance to show off some pieces in our col­lec­tion that nor­mal­ly don’t get to see the light of day—a dozen mag­nif­i­cent wed­ding dress­es. (Look for a future blog post here about Vir­ginia Camp­bel­l’s gowns also cur­rent­ly on display.)

Our friends over at the Ladue News stopped by last week to snap some pho­tos and do a fea­ture on these incred­i­ble works of art, as well as get the sto­ry out about Camp­bell House­’s fash­ion­able past and its once-exten­sive cos­tume col­lec­tion.  Here’s a taste of what they had to say…

ladue3At the Camp­bell House Muse­um, a col­lec­tion of his­toric wed­ding gowns show­cas­ing the metic­u­lous orna­men­ta­tion and painstak­ing detail found in attire from decades past cur­rent­ly is on exhibit.

On dis­play are 11 his­tor­i­cal gowns rang­ing approx­i­mate­ly from 1871 to 1960. A vintage–inspired mod­ern dress also is on dis­play, com­plet­ing the tran­si­tion­al jour­ney of bridal fashion.

The awe-evok­ing crafts­man­ship is show­cased in details such as heavy smock­ing, bead­ing and petite pleat­ing. A vari­ety of old­er sil­hou­ettes are on dis­play, rang­ing from high to scoop neck­lines, hour­glass-shap­ing puffed shoul­ders to hip-enhanc­ing bus­tles. A selec­tion of dress­es even have acces­sories; items like broach­es, shoes, veils and occa­sion­al­ly pho­tographs com­ple­ment the exhibit.

ladue7Pro­cras­ti­na­tors inter­est­ed in see­ing the col­lec­tion should know that Hahn esti­mates the next dis­play will be in “at least a dozen years, if not longer—especially with Mrs. Campbell’s gowns. If not a whole gen­er­a­tion, then the bet­ter part of one.” The ratio­nale behind the wait? “Part of it is to pre­serve them, and also it is a mon­u­men­tal effort to under­take the installation.”

At the start of 2014, the lav­ish gowns will begin mak­ing their way back into stor­age. When not on dis­play, the wed­ding dress­es are kept in lined, spe­cial­ty box­es, par­tial­ly stuffed with acid-free tis­sue paper to avoid any sharp creas­es or folds. “The care is pro­long­ing its even­tu­al demise,” Hahn says. “Fab­ric can last a long time, but no fab­ric will last for­ev­er.” When the dress­es are—delicately—touched, they are done so while wear­ing white cot­ton gloves to keep any dirt or oil on hands off the dress­es. Hahn notes a sim­ple touch might not do any­thing now, but could leave oil-caused dis­col­oration vis­i­ble with­in the next decade.

Pre­serv­ing the gowns, even if they can­not last for­ev­er, is pre­serv­ing a small part of the city. “I think one of the very inter­est­ing things about these gowns is that they are all con­nect­ed to St. Louis,” Hahn says of the donat­ed pieces. “They speak a lot to the wed­ding tra­di­tions in our own com­mu­ni­ty. In a larg­er sense, I think it informs peo­ple how these wed­ding tra­di­tions have changed and evolved over time.”

Click here for the com­plete arti­cle with more images

Thank you to the Ladue News for help­ing us tell the sto­ry of these unique fashions.


A Copy of a Copy

A trip to the Camp­bell House Muse­um guar­an­tees a cou­ple of things:

1.) You’re going to walk up and down a lot of stairs.

2.) You’re going to get a great, engag­ing tour from one of our awe­some docents or interns.

3.) You’re going to see some incred­i­ble exam­ples of Vic­to­ri­an inte­ri­or design and beau­ti­ful works of art.

This post focus­es on the last point—the out­stand­ing col­lec­tion of art accu­mu­lat­ed over the years by Robert and Vir­ginia Camp­bell and their sons—and we have our recent­ly depart­ed Spring intern Amy to thank for the great research that went into what you’re about to read.

Painting of James Campbell by Jules Lefebvre, 1899 © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Paint­ing of James Camp­bell by Jules Lefeb­vre, paint­ed in Paris in 1895.

While Camp­bell House does boast some beau­ti­ful orig­i­nal works of art, like the por­trait of the dash­ing James Camp­bell hang­ing in the library paint­ed by renowned artist Jules Lefeb­vre, many of the art­works that you see on a trip to the muse­um are copies of orig­i­nal works, some going back to antiquity.

What’s pret­ty inter­est­ing though is that, upon fur­ther exam­i­na­tion, resource­ful intern Amy unrav­eled the sto­ry of one of our sculp­tures and revealed that it’s actu­al­ly a copy of a copy… of a copy.

A huge­ly pop­u­lar trend for wealthy fam­i­lies like the Camp­bells in the 19th cen­tu­ry was to dis­play works by well known artists in their homes.  How­ev­er, dis­play­ing orig­i­nal sculp­tures by leg­endary artists would have been imprac­ti­cal and often finan­cial­ly impossible—even for wealthy fam­i­lies like the Camp­bells.  On top of that, most of the orig­i­nals were incred­i­bly heavy—made out of mar­ble, so buy­ing plas­ter copies of the orig­i­nals made them eas­i­er to ship and were much more prac­ti­cal to dis­play in a res­i­den­tial setting.

Bust of "Venus Italica" by Antonio Canova © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Bust of “Venus Ital­i­ca” by Anto­nio Cano­va in the Camp­bell House Morn­ing Room.

One artist for which the Camp­bells seem to have had a par­tic­u­lar affin­i­ty was Ital­ian sculp­tor Anto­nio Cano­va, whose work dates from the late 18th and ear­ly 19th cen­turies.  The most detailed of his works on dis­play here at Camp­bell House can be found in the Morn­ing Room—a bust of his Venus Ital­i­ca.

Canova's original "Venus Italica"

Canova’s orig­i­nal “Venus Italica”

Ok, so you’re prob­a­bly assum­ing that this isn’t the orig­i­nal sculp­ture by Cano­va.  And you’re right.  In fact, the orig­i­nal is sig­nif­i­cant­ly larg­er, and a bit…exposed.  Not nec­es­sar­i­ly some­thing Vir­ginia Camp­bell would have want­ed greet­ing guests as they walked through her home.

What’s inter­est­ing is that, in real­i­ty, Canova’s orig­i­nal Venus Ital­i­ca isn’t actu­al­ly all that orig­i­nal.  In fact, it’s a copy of a much old­er piece called the Medici Venus that Cano­va was com­mis­sioned to recre­ate and onto which he put his own unique spin by adding clothes and repo­si­tion­ing Venus’ hand.  The Medici Venus dates all the way back to the first cen­tu­ry BCE, near­ly 2,000 years before the Camp­bells decid­ed that Venus’ head would look nice on dis­play in their sit­ting room.

Medici Venus

The “Medici Venus”, dat­ing from the first cen­tu­ry BCE

But wait!  There’s more!  Not only is the Camp­bells’ bust of Venus a copy of Anto­nio Canova’s Venus Ital­i­ca, which is a copy of the Medici Venus, but the Medici Venus actu­al­ly has its begin­nings as a copy of an even OLDER sculp­ture- the Venus of Knidos craft­ed in ancient Greece.  Though the orig­i­nal is no longer in exis­tence, we do still have (you guessed it!) copies of what the orig­i­nal is thought to have looked like.… and it’s miss­ing a cou­ple of key features.

Venus Knidos

A copy of the “Venus Knidos”, which dates back to Greek antiquity

So there you have it.  The Camp­bells’ bust of Venus is actu­al­ly a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.  Is your head spin­ning yet?

This prac­tice of repro­duc­ing clas­si­cal sculp­tures for dis­play in the home became increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry and artists began more and more to use clas­sic works as inspi­ra­tions for new pieces.  This move­ment, known as neo­clas­si­cism, posed a pret­ty big prob­lem for schol­ars and crit­ics at the time—was this art new? Or was it just a copy?  The answer that’s gen­er­al­ly been agreed upon is, quite sim­ply, both.  We can see how much change that the orig­i­nal Venus under­went before its lat­er incar­na­tion end­ed up in the Camp­bell House, with dif­fer­ences added slow­ly over time and mak­ing the fig­ure more nat­u­ral­is­tic.  Though these changes and the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of famous works made art more acces­si­ble to the com­mon man, it has been argued this neo­clas­si­cal move­ment actu­al­ly marks begin­ning of art’s decline, throw­ing artis­tic inno­va­tion and iden­ti­ties out the win­dow in favor of cheap reproductions.

Venus (center left) in the Morning Room of the Campbell House, ca. 1885 © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Venus (cen­ter left) in the Morn­ing Room of the Camp­bell House, cir­ca 1885
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2013

Regard­less of the posi­tion you take, it can’t be denied that even these neo­clas­si­cal pieces spared no lack of atten­tion to detail and, when push comes to shove, we’re pret­ty pleased that our copy of Canova’s Venus has kept watch from the cor­ner here at Camp­bell House for the last 150 years.  Even if it is a copy of a copy…of a copy.