Wealthy art connoisseurs Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss purchased the 19th-century Federal-style brick mansion Dumbarton Oaks in 1920. In 1940, they commissioned architects McKim, Mead and White to build an extension, which they filled with their modest-sized collection of Byzantine art. The array of portable, sumptuous Byzantine objects, including rare sixth-century ecclesiastical silver, is one of the world’s finest. That same year the Blisses gave the property, collections and a newly endowed research library to Harvard University.
In 1963, the octagonal Philip Johnson-designed wing was completed; today it houses the pre-Columbian collection in galleries encircling a central fountain. Unmissable exhibits here include a miraculously preserved Peruvian burial mantle from 400 BC and the grotesque "Head of a Maize God", originally crafted in AD 775 for a Honduran temple. The House Collection, principally in the Music Room, has tapestries, sculpture and paintings dating from the 15th to 19th centuries, with highlights including El Greco’s Visitation. The 16 acres of flora-filled formal gardens skirting the mansion, the creation of Beatrix Farrand, are also open to the public and worth a wander.
|Venue name:||Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collections|
1703 32nd Street, NW
|Cross street:||between R & S Streets|
|Opening hours:||Museum 2–5pm Tue–Sun. Gardens mid Mar–Oct 2–6pm Tue–Sun. Nov–mid Mar 2–5pm Tue–Sun|
|Transport:||Bus 30, 32, 34, 36|
|Price:||Museum free. Gardens $8; $5 reductions; free in winter|