Villa Finale Stickpins

photo by: Josh Huskin

Preservation Magazine, Winter 2022

Villa Finale's Eclectic Collection of Jeweled Stickpins

Visitors routinely stop at the glass-fronted case in the Blue Room at Villa Finale: Museum & Gardens, captivated by jeweled explosions sprouting from velvet-topped boxes, from miniature gilt shoes, even from a diminutive rooster statue. This whimsical presentation highlights the stickpin collection of Walter Mathis, owner of the 1876 Italianate house in San Antonio before he bequeathed it to the National Trust in 2004.

Stickpins, commonly used to secure men’s cravats and lapels, were most popular between 1830 and 1920 and became more elaborate in design over the years, says Villa Finale Manager of Collections & Interpretation Sylvia Gonzalez-Pizaña. Mathis, a gatherer and curator of objects since he was a child, received the first three stickpins in this collection as a gift from his grandfather.

“The way Walter Mathis worked with his collections,” says Gonzalez-Pizaña, “is as soon as he got a couple of things, he just added on to that collection because he wanted to make it a proper grouping.”

Mathis, who created the artful display of more than 200 stickpins, thought of his private home as a museum and proudly showed his collections to friends. Fittingly, Villa Finale is indeed a museum today, and the stickpins—complete with gems, tiny cameos, carved likenesses of animals, and more—are among the 12,000 collected items that visitors can view at this National Trust Historic Site.

By: Sharon Holbrook

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