Vanderbilt walls display platinum leaf

Nov. 24, 2006 at 10:02 PM
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NEWPORT, R.I., Nov. 24 (UPI) -- An analysis has found that Cornelius Vanderbilt II decorated the walls of his summer home in Newport, R.I., with platinum.

The Breakers, built in 1893, is one of the architectural wonders of the Gilded Age. But one of its marvels had long puzzled conservators -- the silver-covered wall and ceiling panels in the morning room that had survived for decades without tarnishing.

The answer was discovered recently when the Preservation Society of Newport County arranged for an analysis at the Winterthur Museum laboratory in Delaware. The metal leaf proved to be platinum, the Providence Journal-Bulletin reported.

"Platinum was known to be difficult to work and decadently expensive, even back then," said Trudy Coxe, head of the society. "The fact that it was so beautifully incorporated in The Breakers underscores the wealth and power of the Vanderbilts, for whom money literally was no object. It also tells us that the world's best architectural design firms were even more skilled and advanced than we had realized, or even suspected."

The 70-room mansion was designed by Richard Morris Hunt for Vanderbilt, the president of the New York Central Railroad.

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