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Sign for Vernon Stiles's Inn and the Thompson Hotel
1831
Paint on pine board and moldings, iron hardware
Primary Dimensions (height x width including hardware): 55 x 66in. (139.7 x 167.6cm) Other (height x width of sign only): 44 x 66in. (111.8 x 167.6cm)
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Gallery Copy: This sign first belonged to Vernon Stiles, who operated an inn for two decades. Stiles’s Inn was a popular wedding destination, since anxious couples from nearby Massachusetts and Rhode Island could avoid their own states’ required waiting period between announcement of wedding banns and the actual marriage by coming to Connecticut for the ceremony. In the early 20th century the establishment was reopened as the Thompson Hotel, and the sign was updated with the new name. The figure in the carriage has traditionally been identified as the Marquis de Lafayette.
Description: Images: On both sides, landscape scene, with pair of white horses in center foreground, drawing open carriage with driver and male passenger, who stands, doffing his hat. Background depicts town scene with various dwellings and church. Text: On both sides, on pediment, in drapery swag, "THOMPSON HOTEL"; below image, "VERNON STILES"; on skirt, "1831". Construction: Two one-inch thick boards, joined at the edges with four floating tenons, cut to create decorative profiles on all four edges. Molding strips, mitered at corners, are applied to each face to define a rectangular picture field, several inches inside the perimeter of the sign. No structural frame.
Surface notes: The entire board was evidently repainted at least once and perhaps twice. Analysis of a paint sample taken from the horses indicates that there are three white layers, typically used as a ground. The original background may have been greener and lighter in tone than the present black. Design elements are painted primarily in yellow, and letters are shaded in red on side 2. The central carriage scene, the Vernon Stiles name band, and the date appear to have been repainted over the same design elements, suggesting that these are part of the original decorative scheme. Overlay drawings made of both sides indicate the use of a template in laying out horses, carriage, and figures, although minor variations have been introduced through misalignment of the template and /or differences in the application of repaint layers. Repainting on side 1 appears to have followed underlying design elements more closely. Repainting on side 2, executed prior to 1926, altered the images slightly, moving the coach driver's head higher than its original position, giving him a top hat, for which there appears to be no earlier model, adding detail to the passenger's face and changing the position of his arm, and altering the window pattern of the inn in the background. The ornament presently painted in the border outside the moldings seems to overlie an earlier foliated scrollwork of quite different design. Original location: As of 2000, the Vernon Stiles Inn and Thompson Hotel remains standing, and in business as an inn, on its original site, at the intersection of the Boston-Hartford and Providence-Springfield turnpikes (now Routes 193 and 200).
Object Number: 1998.5.0
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