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Currents of Change, Art and Life Along the Mississippi, 1850-1861
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Currents of Change

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Currents of Change
Father of Waters
Commerce and Culture
Mississippi Panorama
Handsomely Furnished
In the French Taste
Collectors and Exhibitions
Longfellow and the Mississippi
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In his influential Architecture of Country Houses, of 1850, Andrew Jackson Downing noted "almost a mania in the cities for expensive French furniture and decorations . . .  Modern French furniture, and especially that in the style of Louis Quatorze ." He was referring to the style known today as rococo revival, an adaptation of the naturalistic carved and painted designs typical of objects dating to the reigns of Louis XIV (1638-1715) and especially Louis XV (1710-74). Throughout the 1850s, rococo revival was all the rage along the Mississippi, inspiring a love for things French that included portraits by French painters.

To procure the most fashionable French and rococo revival goods, many well-off consumers relied on high-end retailers and fancy goods stores in cities on the Mississippi. Prudent Mallard of New Orleans prided himself on transmitting French taste directly from France to the Mississippi Valley. Mallard's showroom suggests an array of porcelain, cut glass, silver, textiles, chandeliers, papier-mâché, paintings, sculpture, and rococo revival furniture purveyed by this shrewd interior decorator.

To Frederick Stanton, a planter and commission merchant from Natchez, Mississippi, modish taste meant a mix of styles specially suited for certain spaces.   For the massive double parlors of his home, now called Stanton Hall, he chose an exuberant rococo revival suite. This armchair's silk upholstery--a reproduction of the original pattern--accentuates the densely carved scallops and shellwork, rosebuds, floral bouquets, and cartouche-shaped back --typical rococo revival motifs.