Laura C. Jenkins

PhD student

Thesis: ‘Civilising Decoration: French Interiors in the American Gilded Age

Supervised by Professor Katie Scott FBA

My research focuses on French eighteenth- and nineteenth-century interiors in New York mansions between c. 1880 and 1930. From the early 1880s, the movement of French eighteenth-century decorative arts from Paris and London to New York coincided with a growing fashion among the wealthy of that city for rooms in French historical styles. Assisted by decorator-dealers such as Jules Allard and Joseph Duveen, patrons such as the Vanderbilts and the Astors created sumptuous ballrooms, salons, and bathrooms reminiscent of the courts of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI. While these rooms were sensitive to considerations of ‘period’, they were also responsive to social and architectural demands, and ‘style’ was deployed differently in different spaces to achieve particular ends.

My thesis aims to elucidate the role of these interiors in the production of civilised American subjects during the so-called Gilded Age. More broadly, it seeks to examine and call attention to relationships between interior decorating and elite self-fashioning in this period. Focusing on the integration of designs, objects (new as well as ‘antique’), and ideas across a series of room types, I consider the French eighteenth century as a source of strategic and imaginative authority in an effort to situate newly wealthy New Yorkers within shifting frameworks of sociocultural hegemony.


  • PhD History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London (2018–present)
  • MA Fine and Decorative Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, University of Manchester (2014–15)
  • BA Art History and Spanish, Belmont University (2009–13)

Research Interests

  • American architecture and interiors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with emphasis on New York and its satellites
  • Collecting and display, architectural salvage and revivalism, esp. objects and materials of eighteenth-century French origin or provenance
  • Theories and practices of space, decoration, and luxury
  • Bathrooms and bathing culture


  • ‘The Gilded Interior: French Style and American Renaissance’, Architectural History, 64 (2021)

Conferences and Lectures

  • Co-chair, Boiseries: Decoration and Migration from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Camden Place, Chislehurst (Kent), 12 & 13 January 2023
  • Co-chair, Digital Interiors: Emerging Scholars Symposium, SAH Historic Interiors Affiliate Group (HIG), 10 &17 June 2022
  • New York Mansions: The Emergence of a French Style in America (short course), Christie’s Education, New York, 2–30 July 2021
  • ‘Magnificent Women: French Furniture and the Representation of American Luxury’, Postgraduate Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 21–22 June 2021
  • Co-chair, New Research Symposium: Interiors and their Histories, SAH Historic Interiors Affiliate Group (HIG), 21 May 2021
  • Guest art historian, Christie’s Education x Decorative Arts: Fulfilling the Mission of Beauty, Christie’s Decorative Arts Department and Christie’s Education, New York, 23 June 2020
  • ‘Gilded Interiors: Modern Identity and the “Historical Tradition”‘, 72nd Annual International Conference, Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), Providence, RI, 24–28 April 2019
  • ‘Interpreting the Historic House Bathroom: Gilded Age Design, Decoration, and Distinction’, Annual Meeting, Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SESAH), Lynchburg, VA, 11–14 October 2017
  • ‘Bathing à la Pompadour: Luxury and the Reinvention of Eighteenth-Century French Design in the Gilded Age Bathroom’, Reuse Reconsidered Conference, Brown University, 15–17 September 2017
  • ‘Designing Distinction: “Comfort and Enlightenment” in the Gilded Age Bath-Room’, Eaddo H. & Peter D. Kiernan III Lecture, The Preservation Society of Newport County, 16 August 2017