Laura C. Jenkins - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Laura C. Jenkins

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Laura C. Jenkins

PhD student

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28 Feb

Thesis: ‘Civilizing Decoration: French Interiors in the American Gilded Age, 1882–1900′

Supervised by Professor Katie Scott

My research focuses on eighteenth-century French-style interiors in American mansions between 1882 and 1900. In the final decades of the nineteenth century, the emergence of America’s first truly national upper class coincided with the development of its first truly international art market. Frenchness became synonymous with elegance and sophistication in a stylistic quest for cultural legitimacy and social superiority, and high-style ‘Louis’ rooms distinguished the private mansion as an elite architectural type.

My thesis aims to elucidate the role of these interiors in the production of a civilized and distinctly modern American subject and American subjects. More broadly, it seeks to examine and call attention to dynamic relationships between states and practices of interior decoration and elite self-fashioning in this period. Focusing on the adaptation of French designs, objects and ideas across a series of room types, I consider the French eighteenth century as a source of strategic and imaginative authority in a historiographical effort to situate America, and particularly New York, within a shifting framework 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, luxury, historiography
  • Bathrooms and bathing culture

Conferences and Lectures

  • New York Mansions: The Emergence of a French Style in America (short course), Christie’s Education, New York, TBA (Summer 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
  • ‘The Gilded Interior: 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


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