Dumbarton Oaks is a historic estate in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It was the residence and gardens of Robert Woods Bliss (1875–1962) and his wife Mildred Barnes Bliss (1879–1969).

Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss were enthusiastic collectors and judicious patrons of scholarship and the arts. A graduate of Harvard University, Robert Bliss pursued a distinguished career as an officer and diplomat in the Foreign Service. Mildred Bliss inherited a fortune from her family's investment in the patent medicine Fletcher's Castoria. Sharing a taste in the art of little-known or under-appreciated cultures, the Blisses developed unique collections with the help of knowledgeable friends and scholarly advisors. They envisioned Dumbarton Oaks as a home of the Humanities, a place of natural serenity and intellectual adventure.

The Dumbarton Oaks Museum features collections of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art, as well as European artworks and furnishings. Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss initiated these collections in the first half of the twentieth century and provided the vision for future acquisitions even after giving Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University.

The Byzantine Collection spans the imperial, ecclesiastical, and secular realms and comprises more than 1,200 objects from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries. Although the collection emphasizes objects of precious materials, underscoring the conception of Byzantine art as luxury art, the collection also includes large-scale works such as mosaics from Antioch and relief sculpture, as well as more than two hundred textiles and comprehensive holdings of coins and seals. In addition to its Byzantine holdings, the collection includes Greek, Roman, and western medieval artworks and objects from the ancient Near East, pharaonic and Ptolemaic Egypt, and various Islamic cultures.

The Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art comprises objects from the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica, the Intermediate Area, and the Andes. Among its most important holdings are a variety of sculptures in stone, including carvings of Aztec deities and animals and several large relief panels bearing the likenesses of Maya kings. In addition there are sculpted anthropomorphic figurines and polished jade renderings of ritual objects from the Olmec, Veracruz, and Teotihuacan cultures as well as molded and painted ceramics of the Nasca, Moche, and Wari cultures. Gold and silver objects from the Chavín, Lambayeque, Chimú, and Inca cultures offer evidence of the expertise achieved by Andean metalsmiths, and over forty textiles and works in feathers testify to the importance of fiber arts in this region.

The House Collection consists primarily of Dumbarton Oaks' historic buildings and interiors, Asian, European, and American artworks, and interior furnishings. Principal to the collection is the renaissance-style music room. The ceiling and flooring of this room were inspired by examples at the guardroom of the historic Château de Cheverny near Paris and were fabricated by the Parisian designer, Armand Albert Rateau. The music room features displays of tapestries, sculptures, paintings, and furniture dating from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The Blisses used the music room for hosting musical programs and scholarly lectures, and it continues to serve these purposes.

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Category: Museums in United States

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User Reviews

Olga Crawford (2 months ago)
Incredible place and collection. Stravinsky and Copland composed music for the place. It is a precious gem in the heart of Georgetown.
Jason E. Grawey (2 months ago)
One of the most peaceful gardens in the DMV. Truly apart of and from Georgetown simultaneously. A pleasure.
Konstantin Salavatov (3 months ago)
Exceptionally beautiful garden magically hidden in Georgetown
Traveling Terrezzas (3 months ago)
This was my favorite place of all of Washington DC. You will never know this place existed as a tourist or to visit. I feel like it is a hidden gem. It is tucked away from the city center and all the monuments and memorials and within the estate, you are like it this beautiful enchanting garden with peace. The gardens are pretty big with so many different aspects to it from mossy stairs, and breathing green houses and vibrant flowers with rabbits scurrying away with fruit growing from the trees. I wanted to stay there forever. It was such a refreshing place to be. As of right now there is timed entry for the afternoon and it gets sold out so def buy your tickets in advance. The tickets are cheap.
Janet Hawkins (4 months ago)
The museum is one of Washington’s hidden gems. The diverse collection is small but includes some stunning pieces from Ancient Greece, the Americas, and the Byzantine era.
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