Inside the Payne Whitney Mansion at 972 Fifth Avenue (now the Cultural Services of the French Embassy), is a stunning Venetian Room, renown as one of the few remaining masterpieces of the New York City’s Gilded Age. The house, designed by architect Stanford White in 1902, was a wedding gift from Oliver Payne to his nephew, Payne Whitney and his wife Helen Hay. The Venetian Room was created in 1906, following numerous trips to Europe by White for inspiration and sourcing of the materials. In fact, the room is the last design by the architect before he was murdered in a romantic feud on the roof of Madison Square Garden, another one of his buildings.

In 1948, the Venetian Room was taken apart due to concerns regarding its conservation and the pieces from the room remained in storage until 1997, when the Hay-Whitney family donated them to the French Embassy. The Venetian Room was then reinstalled and has been viewable to the public, but in an unrestored state. Now, after months of restoration, the room re-opened last week showing off its mirrored walls, latticework, and porcelain flowers with a level of brilliance and shine probably not seen since its installation over a century ago.

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan courtesy the Cultural Services of the French Embassy

Due to the state of the historic room, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy made the conservation of the Venetian Room a priority last year and launched a campaign to fund the restoration. Pascale Patris, Conservator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art performed the first restoration assessment and the restoration was done by French firm Atelier de Ricou.

Starting this month, the room will be open to all visitors of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, which promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language and higher education across the United States. You can visit the building without a pre-scheduled event by going to Albertine bookstore, on the first floor. A new installation in the entrance hall of the building (where you will also see a replica of the original Michelangelo sculpture that was in the mansion) will showcase videos on the history of the mansion, the Venetian Room, and information on the mission and programs of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan courtesy the Cultural Services of the French Embassy

Untapped Cities Insiders recently got a special tour of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy! Join us for other behind the scenes tours like this one!

Next, check out the Gilded Age mansions of Fifth Avenue.