Collection Highlights

The Biltmore collection consists of more than 92,000 items—from architectural drawings of Biltmore House to works by Monet, Renoir, and more. A limited selection is highlighted below, including one of its oldest pieces and its newest addition.

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Italian Renaissance wellhead
c. 1500

Maker: Unknown (Italian)
Location: East Terrace of Biltmore House

Made of Rosso di Verona marble, this fountainhead was likely originally used to decorate and protect an active well in Venice during the Italian Renaissance. It has become known as the “Hunt fountain” as it is depicted in the John Singer Sargent portrait of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt.

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Triumph of Faith
c. 1530

Maker: Unknown (Belgian)
Location: Tapestry Gallery of Biltmore House

Part of the Triumph of the Seven Virtues series, this tapestry is centrally woven with the personification of Faith as the female figure on the chariot holding a church, the cross, and a chalice. Above her are members of the Trinity, with various other Biblical figures representing scenes of Faith. Triumph of Prudence and Triumph of Charity from this tapestry series are also part of the Biltmore collection.

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Chinese fishbowl
c. 1573-1620

Maker: Unknown (Chinese)
Location: Library of Biltmore House

This glazed porcelain fishbowl, decorated with the imperial five-claw dragon, is from the Wanli period of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). While there are three Chinese fishbowls in the Biltmore collection, this one is the smallest, the most colorful, and likely the rarest. It is unclear when or where George Vanderbilt acquired these pieces as he never traveled to China.

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Ebony cabinet-on-stand
c. 1650

Maker: Possibly Jean Macé or Pierre Gole (French)
Location: Oak Sitting Room of Biltmore House

This elaborate furnishing represents prestige in a variety of ways. The style of this cabinet was designed to boast small objects of value. These elaborate stands were made for the French court and symbolized power and wealth. The ebony, itself an indicator of status, is carved with allegorical scenes of Diana and Mars. It also features a painting of Juno and Jupiter.

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The Chariot of Aurora
c. 1720

Artist: Giovanni Pellegrini (Italian)
Location: Library of Biltmore House

Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the Library to accommodate this ceiling painting, which George Vanderbilt purchased from dealer Joseph Spiridon under Hunt’s advisement. Originally located in the ballroom of the Pisani Palace in Venice, the work comprises 13 separate canvases and measures about 64 feet long by 32 feet wide. It depicts the mythological story of Aurora, the goddess of dawn.

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Louis XV mantel clock
c. 1760

Makers: Phillippe Barat, clockwork (French); Edme Dumont, case (Fr.); possibly Meissen, porcelain (Fr.)
Location: Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom in Biltmore House

One of many clocks in the Biltmore collection, this elaborately embellished piece is made of ormolu and porcelain. The Louis XV style is characterized by curved shapes, a lightness or playfulness of design, and liberal use of gold, among other things. This clock is believed to be one of clockmaker Phillipe Barat’s greatest works.

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c. 1700-1750

Maker: Unknown (Swiss)
Location: Tyrolean Chimney Room in Biltmore House

Serving as the focal point of the Tyrolean Chimney Room, this unique overmantel is an example of the incorporation of antique items into the design of Biltmore House. The hand-painted Swiss tiles were originally part of a kachelöfen, which is a type of stove used to radiate heat inside homes. George Vanderbilt likely collected this during one of his many European trips.

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c. 1750-1850

Maker: Unknown (Japanese)
Location: The Biltmore Legacy

This is one of many netsuke that George Vanderbilt collected during his 1892 trip to Japan. Originally created as toggles to secure a storage bag to a kimono sash, netsuke became highly treasured by Western collectors in the 19th century. Netsuke are exceptionally tactile objects and miniature sculptural masterworks.

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Game table and chess set
c. 1820

Maker: Unknown
Location: The Biltmore Legacy

This Empire game table and its natural and red-stained ivory chess set were owned by Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile on St. Helena. Andrew Darling, an upholsterer on St. Helena who was present at Napoleon’s autopsy, purchased these items at auction in 1821 after the former emperor's death. It is unclear how James McHenry acquired the table and chess set, but in 1883, he gifted them to George Vanderbilt for his 21st birthday.

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Roger & Angelique on Hippogriff
c. 1840-1900

Artist: Antoine-Louis Barye (French)
Location: Tapestry Gallery in Biltmore House

While Antoine-Louis Barye was known as an "animalier" who sculpted realistic animal figures, this bronze represents a story from Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, an epic poem written in the 16th century. In the story, Roger rescues Angelique from being devoured by a sea monster and carries her across the sea on his hippogriff (part horse and part eagle). They fall in love but she ultimately escapes from him.

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The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian
c. 1849-1879

Artist: Albrecht Dürer (German)
Location: Music Room of Biltmore House

This woodcut, commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I to distribute as propaganda, was created with 192 separate blocks. Though the original was made around 1515, this version was printed in the second half of the 19th century. An avid collector of Albrecht Dürer prints, George Vanderbilt purchased this piece in December 1895 from Wunderlich & Co. in New York. Due to its large size, it had to be dismantled for shipping, then reassembled on site.

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Desk set
c. 1860-1870

Maker: Unknown (French)
Location: Salon of Biltmore House

This Louis XV-style desk set, also known as an encrier, is made of ormolu and tortoise shell. Essentially elaborate inkwells, desk sets were functional as well as decorative during this era when letter-writing was a fundamental form of communication.

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Nocturne: Battersea
c. 1871-1873

Artist: James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American)
Location: Oak Sitting Room of Biltmore House

George Vanderbilt served as a patron to James Abbott McNeill Whistler, commissioning and purchasing several of his paintings during their acquaintance. He purchased this piece in 1900 from dealer Wunderlich & Co. With the Nocturne series of paintings, Whistler was creating a composition more about colors and shapes than the actual subject matter, which was London's Thames River at night. The boats in the foreground are called spritsail barges, a type of commercial sailing boat best known specifically for use in the Thames during this era.

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La Farge windows

Artist: John La Farge (American)
Location: Biltmore Winery

George Vanderbilt’s father William Henry Vanderbilt commissioned three stained glass triptychs from La Farge for his home at 640 Fifth Avenue in New York. After George inherited the property, the windows were removed during renovations in 1910 and they were brought to Biltmore. These panels showcase many of La Farge’s experimental techniques, which influenced another famous stained glass artist, Louis Comfort Tiffany. This triptych represents Hospitality and Prosperity.

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Japanese-inspired cabinet plate
c. 1881

Maker: Royal Worcester (English)
Location: Breakfast Room of Biltmore House

This plate is part of a set of 12, originally displayed in the dining room of William Henry Vanderbilt's home at 640 Fifth Avenue. Known for its high-quality porcelain, Royal Worcester is a china company that embraced the Far Eastern-inspired designs that were popular during this era, a trend known as Japonisme. The plate’s ivory background in the form of a pierced lotus pad and its applied decorative insects demonstrate this strong influence of Japanese elements on English ceramics.

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Strada Romana á Bordighera

Artist: Claude Monet (French)
Location: Salon of Biltmore House

Monet was one of several noted Impressionist artists whose works George Vanderbilt collected in the late 19th century. This painting and others Monet made around the same time are notable for the way in which he captures light. In this view of one of the main streets in Bordighera, a vibrant fishing village on the northwest coast of Italy, he emphasizes the brilliant colors of the striking flora.

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Richard Morris Hunt

Artist: Mary Grant (Scottish)
Location: Vestibule of Biltmore House

In 1889, George Vanderbilt and architect Richard Morris Hunt travelled to England and France seeking inspiration for what would become Biltmore House. During this trip, they made time to sit for busts by Mary Grant, one of the most prominent female sculptors of the 19th century. Hunt's bust is displayed upon entry to America’s Largest Home® as a tribute to his key role in its creation.

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Le Souffleur de Verre (The Glassblower)

Artist: Constantin Meunier (Belgian)
Location: Oak Sitting Room of Biltmore House

In December 1913, newspapers reported that George and Edith Vanderbilt purchased eight bronze works from an exhibition of Meunier’s work at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Five of these bronzes remain in the collection today. Meunier made an important contribution to the development of modern art by capturing scenes of working-class life. While he wasn’t the first to explore this theme, his portrayal of labor and laborers in forthright fashion was a new approach.

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East elevation drawing of Biltmore House
1 Jul 1890

Maker: Richard Morris Hunt firm (American)
Location: Biltmore Archives; not on display

Biltmore's archives contain 3,500 historic architectural drawings, including hundreds from the construction of Biltmore House. The fact these were kept is a testament to George Vanderbilt's pride and interest not only in the finished product of his home, but in the process of creating it. This drawing shows an early version of the front façade, near its final form but with a few key differences, most notably the absence of the Winter Garden’s atrium-style roof.

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Loving cup

Maker: Gorham Manufacturing Company (American)
Location: The Biltmore Legacy

One of many gifts honoring the marriage of George Vanderbilt and Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, this loving cup bears the ESV monogram. Produced in 1894 by noted silver manufacturer Gorham, it was engraved in 1898, the year of their wedding. Loving cups were designed as a symbolic way for a bride and groom to share the sacrament of marriage. Here, the three handles represent a spiritual union and the sharing of this joy with friends and family.

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Frederick Law Olmsted

Artist: John Singer Sargent (American)
Location: Second Floor Living Hall of Biltmore House

In the summer of 1895, George Vanderbilt commissioned society's preeminent portrait artist John Singer Sargent to come to Biltmore and paint landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Richard Morris Hunt. The portraits serve as monuments to memorialize their contributions to Biltmore. Olmsted is known for designing New York City’s Central Park and the United States Capitol Grounds, but he considered Biltmore to be his crowning achievement.

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Boy Stealing Geese

Artist: Karl Bitter (Austrian)
Location: Winter Garden of Biltmore House

Sculptor Karl Bitter worked with architect Richard Morris Hunt to create a number of pieces for Biltmore House. His bronze and marble fountain sculpture Boy Stealing Geese, based on ancient Greek motifs in the work of Boethus, is the central focus of the Winter Garden.

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Steamer trunk

Maker: Louis Vuitton (French)
Location: The Biltmore Legacy

One of many trunks in the Biltmore collection, this Louis Vuitton steamer trunk was a vital part of the trans-Atlantic travel that the Vanderbilts enjoyed each year. Edith Vanderbilt purchased this trunk for herself in 1899. Her initials appear on the side.

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Cornelia Vanderbilt

Artist: John da Costa (English)
Location: Oak Sitting Room of Biltmore House

One of the most distinguished children’s portrait painters during this era, John da Costa was brought to Biltmore twice in early 1906 to do preliminary sketches for his portrait of young Cornelia Vanderbilt. The painting was likely completed in New York and then shipped to Biltmore. Da Costa later wrote to George Vanderbilt with specific recommendations for the direction from which the portrait should be lit.

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Mrs. George W. Vanderbilt

Artist: Giovanni Boldini (Italian)
Location: Tapestry Gallery of Biltmore House

Giovanni Boldini became a highly popular portrait painter among upper-class women during the early 20th century. Boldini described Edith Vanderbilt as an ideal model, and the painting was exhibited with some of his other works at the Salon in Paris before joining the Biltmore collection.

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WWI Service Flag

Makers: New England Decorating Company (American); Eagle Mountain Flag Company, 2014 reproduction (Am.)
Location: Banquet Hall of Biltmore House

Edith Vanderbilt ordered this service flag to honor the individuals employed by the estate, the Biltmore Hospital, and Biltmore Industries who served during World War I. The 50 blue stars are for the those who served and returned home, and the three gold stars are for those whose lives were lost during the war. Only two of the three employees have been identified, and both of those individuals died due to the 1918 influenza pandemic. The original flag remains in the collection; a reproduction was created for display.

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Vanity case with lipstick holder

Maker: Cartier (French)
Location: The Biltmore Legacy

In honor of Cornelia Vanderbilt’s marriage to the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil, her cousin Adele Sloane Burden gifted the couple this Art Deco-style Cartier set. The set is made of gold, jade, and black enamel, and it includes a compact, cigarette holder, and lipstick tube.

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The William A. V. Cecil Family

Artist: Stone Roberts (American)
Location: Second Floor Living Hall of Biltmore House

This modern family portrait, painted in 1990-1991 by Asheville-native Stone Roberts, shows George Vanderbilt's grandson William A. V. Cecil with his family inside Biltmore House, with the Music Room and Loggia visible behind them. The Vanderbilt family portrait Going to the Opera, painted by Seymour Guy in 1873, hangs in the background.

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Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier

Artist: Dale Chihuly (American)
Location: Biltmore Winery

Artist Dale Chihuly’s Chandeliers are composed of hundreds of blown glass elements that together make up elaborate, intricate compositions. Chihuly began the Chandelier series in 1992 and has since created them for locations all around the world. Commissioned to represent the importance of wine in Biltmore’s history, Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier draws inspiration from the vibrant hues found in red, white, and rosé wines produced on the estate.

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