Maryhill Museum: Queen Marie Collection

MPF Conservation is a full-service company specializing in conservation, restoration and preservation of furnishings of upholstered and non-upholstered objects, textiles and interior architectural elements; this page discusses the condition assessments performed for the Queen’s Collection at Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, Washington.

Mitchell with Betty Long-Schleif, Collections Manager, now retired, inspecting a chest from the Queen’s collection, right; the image below is a detail from this chest.


  1. Gilding is a decorative technique whereby a thin coating of gold is laid over an object made of wood, example below left from the Queen’s Chest also shown above right. Silver gilding or silver-gilt is the same process done with either pure or sterling silver, and is sometimes referred to as vermeil. The example below right is a detail from the Silver Gilt Audience Throne, shown below. The Queen’s Collection features both!
  2. A master carver employed a relief carving technique using gouges to mimic the appearance of hammered metal in both types of gilded items, shown in the detail below left.
  3. Many of the items have lovely carved textural motifs.

Image right states that this image was
made “by the Queen of Roumania.”

On a round-the-world trip in 1893, Sam Hill befriended Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938). She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, born Marie Alexandra Victoria to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.

Queen Marie met Sam Hill a year after her marriage to Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania. Her 1926 visit to the United States was initiated by Sam’s invitation. The museum was dedicated by Queen Marie of Romania in 1926 to a private crowd of over 2000.

It is said that in her diary, Queen Marie of Romania called Maryhill “a strange cement building erected by the just as strange Samuel Hill.” However to the crowds at the private dedication of the then unfinished museum, she praised the project and supported the museum by donating over 100 works of art, including paintings, Russian icons, manuscripts, and clothing.

It is her furniture at Maryhill that you will see below, donated by Queen Marie and by Alma de Bretteville Spreckels.

Note: We apologize for some images in advance;
sometimes there was no space at the museum to back up to take a photo.

Three gilded items:

  1. Above left, a round “coffee” height table
  2. Above right, a square table in the same “coffee table” genre with a glass display insert
  3. Right, a corner bench.

Ceremonial Gilded Choir Stall circa 1900

Thee were probably multiples of these, as they typically are used as choir seats.

Gilded Desk circa 1900

This ornate piece at first glance looks proportionally like it should be a bench, but it is a desk!

The creature also appears to be horse at first glance, but upon closer inspection is be mythical in nature, with a bird head on a horse-like body, suggesting a hippogriff. The meaning of the hippogriff varies in countries: in some said to be the symbol of love’s power to overcome hate, because its parents, the mare and griffin, are enemies. In others, it represents Christ’s dual nature as both human and divine.

The same image is repeated on the Gilded Small Ritual Chair below.

MPFC speculated it might be a symbol of the Queen, but could find no supporting evidence to that effect.

Gilded Small Ritual Chair circa 1900

This chair sat in front of the desk in the exhibit, though we doubt it was a desk chair.

Gilded Side Table and Four Chairs circa 1900

The beautifully gilded side table and four straight-back chairs area, a set. The table is a bit small for meals.

The gilding has two types of wear:

  • One is the gentle wear that exposes the bole underneath, such as the slight wear in the middle of the inside back;
  • The other is where the gilt has chipped off, prevalent in areas like the bottom of legs.

The chairs do not appear comfortable, but might have been meant for occasional use during formal occasions. They were used from time to time, because light wear areas of wear can be seen on the inside backs of the chairs, shown best in image two and three above. It is likely the pieces were used with decorative cushion toppers in order to create comfort, but this is only a supposition.

Silver Gilt Audience Throne circa 1900

Above, the Throne is a beautiful example of a silver-gilded item, with lovely feminine details of the heart, a lily, and the sun surrounded by stars in the sky.

Image right is Alma de Bretteville Spreckels in the Silver Audience Throne (1924) she donated to Maryhill, painted by Richard Hall.

Kate loves the image right of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels sitting in the throne, which gives one a sense of the throne’s scale and also shows how the throne transforms when an individual of presence inhabits its embrace.

The silver-gilt throne shows two types of condition issues:

  • Abrasion which exposes bole underneath, and is quite pretty, shown best in the third image above or the square image at the top of this post;
  • The other is areas where gilt has chipped off, exposing bare wood, such as the fourth and fifth image above.

Left, a detail of the dedication label from Queen Marie of Romania to the Spreckels, with her signature in red at the bottom.

It reads, “To Mr and Mrs A B Spreckels (Mrs. Alma de Bretteville Spreckels) ‘en reconnaissance’ for what they have done for others.” and is signed by the Queen.

This label is found in several pieces.

Large Corner Gilded Audience Throne with Deacon Chairs circa 1900

The large corner gilded Audience Throne Shown above is actually at least three pieces:

  • Left-facing Deacon Seat with back and one step up;
  • The center Audience Throne with two steps up and plinth / kneeler;
  • Right-facing Deacon Seat with back and one step up.

The gilding shows almost no wear on this piece, but does show what may be stains, and a few cracks in the structure. Of the latter, they do not appear to be of the type to cause failure of the structure.

Below, details of two mythical or real creatures on the inside back of the throne.

Silver Gilded Prayer Stand circa 1900

The Silver Gilded Prayer Stand is unusual in that one does not kneel but rather stands. Central motif, while still vermeil, may originally been gilded over gold, and it has in part rubbed off (assuming abrasion) showing the slight gilt color underneath. It also is evident in the radiating arms around a portrait of the Virgin Mary, above right.

Many of the embedded gemstones and opals are missing, seen around the Virgin, above right, and also used at the base.

The silver-gilt shows some gentle wear which makes the piece more beautiful.

Symbols are the Lilies, the Virgin Mary, and the radiating sun.

This is an interesting religious item, and for those interested, there is an Italian Prei Dieu (Prayer Bench) circa 16th Century on the Hearst Castle Assessment 1 page.

Above, overall images of the exterior; below, details from the exterior.

Gilded Wardrobe circa 1900

The Gilded Wardrobe was became personal storage while Spreckels owned it. It is set to accommodate hanging items and has interior drawers at the bottom.

The wardrobe is cracked in several places. Large vertical cracks run the length of the sides or doors, shown in images top and right.

The gilding shows two types of wear:

  • One is the gentle wear that exposes the bole underneath, and is quite pretty;
  • The other is where the gilt has chipped off, along edges of the wardrobe and the feet.

The symbolism is overtly Christian, with both the cross and the circle of thrones. Three cross motifs exist on the wardrobe as well, shown in these images.

Below, details of the interior of the wardrobe.

Further Reading:

Below, this and other videos (search on YouTube) show her in her element.

Silent film, below.