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Discovering an American Masterpiece in a Beacon Hill Basement



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In Celebration of Boston Design Week

Interior Designer Heidi Pribell was in the basement of a client’s Boston brownstone in 1999 when she stumbled upon a mantelpiece in a pile of rubble. The marble structure was about to be hauled off, but Pribell recognized it as something exquisite; thus began an architectural odyssey for the intrepid designer.

Pribell’s research of the caryatid mantelpiece led her to encounter fascinating personalities from America’s first generation of citizens. These included the Cambridge-born visionary Thomas Appleton (1763-1840), a member of Jefferson’s inner circle, who designed the mantelpiece. Appleton was intent upon defining an “American Aesthetic” and Pribell makes a compelling case for him as America’s first art dealer.

As a result of Pribell’s scholarship and perseverance, the mantelpiece that spent 200 years on Beacon Hill and was almost lost will be installed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as part of its 150th anniversary in 2020. Pribell’s engaging presentation on the riddle of the caryatids, how it impassioned her scholarship, and her journey from Revolutionary America to Paris and back has delighted audiences who appreciate art, architecture, and history.

Please join us for a reception generously hosted by Trefler’s, Boston's premier Fine Art and Antique restoration company, immediately following the discussion.

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