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The Music Room

The Musicroom at Dumbarton Oaks

The Blisses wanted the Music Room to be essentially Renaissance in character, but they also desired this addition to harmonize with the Georgian style of the main house. Early in 1927, they acquired two Italian Renaissance, sixteenth-century marble arches, said to be from Ravenna; these arches firmly established the room's Renaissance character. The Blisses failed to find an antique Renaissance ceiling and flooring, however, and instead commissioned the Parisian designer Armand Albert Rateau to fabricate reproductions inspired by examples at the guardroom of the historic Château de Cheverny near Paris.

The Blisses engaged the American artist Allyn Cox to paint murals for the walls of the Music Room corridor and entrance staircase. For the staircase murals, the more ambitious of the two projects, Cox envisioned the space compartmentalized by trompe-l'oeil Baroque-style architectural frames, within which are depictions of classical architectural ruins and various Italian Renaissance–style buildings as well as people resting or engaged in work activities, in the manner of eighteenth-century paintings of classical ruins. On the advice of Rateau, the Blisses acquired as the true centerpiece of the room, a large, French Renaissance, sixteenth-century stone mantelpiece that originally came from the Château de Théobon in Loubès-Bernac, France.

The Blisses used the Music Room for musical programs, scholarly lectures, and intellectual discourse. It continues to serve these purposes at Dumbarton Oaks, hosting an annual public lecture series and the Friends of Music at Dumbarton Oaks concert series, which was inaugurated in 1946.

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