Discovering Silver Linings: A Special Long Island Outing


On a crisp November morning, Trust members gathered on Long Island to celebrate the life and legacy of our late board member Dean F. Failey.

The day began at the Long Island Museum (LIM) located in Stony Brook, NY, for a private, curator-led tour of the exhibition: Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith & Entrepreneur. Elias Pelletreau (1726–1810) was a well-known artisan, who created elegant teapots, porringers, tankards, and jewelry. As the first museum exhibition devoted to Pelletreau’s oeuvre since a 1959 show at the Brooklyn Museum, the LIM’s assemblage of Pelletrau’s craftsmanship was a landmark feat not to be missed. Numerous loans from museums and private collections from coast to coast were on view, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Yale University Gallery, and the Newark Museum.

This exhibition held special importance for Trust members not only for its academic content, but also because of a unique connection between Pelletreau and the decorative arts historian Dean F. Failey. The exhibition culminated Dean’s 40 years of research on Pelletreau. He first studied the silversmith as a student in the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in the early 1970s and continued his exploration up until his passing in 2015. The Long Island Museum collaborated with Dean’s family, Winterthur classmate Deborah Dependahl Waters, and a team of scholars to bring his lifelong project to fruition. Accompanied by an extensive catalog published by Preservation Long Island (PLI), Elias Pelletreau features over 150 pieces of silver, furniture, and paintings that shed light on the life and work of one of the most important artisans of Colonial America. Having the opportunity to tour the exhibition with Dean’s friends, colleagues, and family provided for a heartwarming and academically enriching trip.

Our visit also reinforced Dean’s ongoing impact on the decorative arts field. In 2015, the Decorative Arts Trust created the Dean F. Failey Grant to support noteworthy research, exhibition, and publication projects in the field of American decorative arts. The Trust’s inaugural grants supported the exhibition at the LIM and the accompanying catalog published by PLI.

Following our exploration of the LIM, members proceeded to Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket, NY, to enjoy an in-depth look at a meticulously preserved 18th-century farmhouse. Originally built around 1730 as a two-story saltbox dwelling, the house and landscape were maintained as a farmstead for more than 150 years by the Jayne family. In 1908, Howard C. Sherwood, Preservation Long Island’s founder, acquired the house as a space to highlight his collecting passions. Lauren Brincat, Preservation Long Island curator and one of Dean’s mentees, provided participants with a detailed look at the house and its contents, including period furnishings from Sherwood’s original collection, late-18th-century painted plasterwork, and a beautiful landscape with several outbuildings.


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