Antiques Roadshow: Take a Virtual Treasure Hunt Through the Filoli Collections
Who doesn’t love Antiques Roadshow? For 26 seasons, this show has charmed, intrigued, and engaged audiences as auction house experts offer free appraisals of antiques and collectibles. Filoli, a National Trust Historic Site located in Woodside, California, opened as a private residence in 1917 by William Bowers Bourn II and to the public in 1975, is dedicated to “connecting our rich history with a vibrant future through beauty, nature, and shared stories.” Which makes it the perfect place for the launch of Antiques Roadshow’s 27th season in 2023 with episodes airing January 2, 9, and 16.
Last summer thousands of antiques from attics around the United States traveled to Woodside to be appraised as part of a show that is “part adventure, part history lesson, and part treasure hunt.” These visitors shared family stories and experiences, and found out exactly how much these heirlooms might be worth. That sense of discovery is what makes this show so incredibly popular, and the first episode of the season—filmed at Filoli—features a viola by renowned maker Ansaldo Poggi, valuing the instrument at the remarkable price of $200,000-330,000!
To celebrate the premier of these episodes, join us on a virtual treasure hunt through Filoli's collections, Antiques Roadshow-style.
These charcoal sketches of Agnes and William Bourn—the original owners of Filoli—have an unusual backstory. For upper-class Americans during the Victorian era, it was a mark of status to have a portrait painted by famed artist John Singer Sargent. In 1915, the Bourns hoped he would paint their portraits, but Sargent was no longer accepting commissions for portraiture in oils. He would only agree to create these charcoal sketches—called “mugs”—which could be finished in an hour or two.
We’ve never been able to solve the mystery of who originally owned this 500-year-old table carpet! Its beautiful design features 36 plants as well as a coat of arms, but our research showed that it was replaced at some point and cannot be identified. We do know that the weavers who created the tapestry put so much thought into the design that if these plants were planted in a garden, it would produce flowers year round! It was used as a tablecloth… can you imagine dining on top of such an ornate piece of art? The Bourns and Roths (the second owners of Filoli) chose to hang it instead.
In the Filoli Ballroom, you are immersed in an atmospheric Irish landscape. When William Bourn could no longer travel to visit his daughter Maud Bourn Vincent at Muckross Estate in Ireland, his wife Agnes commissioned murals to bring the beloved estate to her husband in California. Ernest Peixotto, an American artist known for his mural paintings, created enormous canvases in the Ballroom depicting the Muckross mansion and lake. Agnes also suggested O’Sullivan’s Cascade in Killarney as a subject, writing, “It has fairies hiding among the ferns and listening to the music of the falling water.” The waterfall made it into the composition on the right side of the fireplace.
The same painting has hung over the Filoli Dining Room fireplace for more than 100 years. The Bourns chose Dutch masterpiece Still Life of Dead Game and Implements of the Hunt, painted in 1703 by Jan Weenix, for the place of honor. Though the scene may seem unappetizing to look at during a meal, it was meant to symbolize the bounty of the Filoli estate—which featured orchards, agricultural fields, and a large production garden.
We hope these four objects, just a sample of what you can find at Filoli, have piqued your interest about the history of the found objects that remain tucked away in your own home. Maybe we'll see you and those artifacts on an Antiques Roadshow episode sometime soon.
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Priya Chhaya is the associate director of content at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Willa Brock manager of interpretation & learning experiences