Henry Davis Sleeper Residence
This photograph depicts the sitting room of the Sleeper family home at 336 Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay. This is the same house where Wallace Bryant painted his oil portrait of Henry Davis Sleeper sitting in the library. Both rooms were densely crowded with costly furniture, objets d’art, and memorabilia, and their walls were virtually covered with framed works of art. Growing up in such an elaborately decorated environment helped inspire Henry Sleeper to create his own richly furnished interiors at Beauport.
Modern viewers may be surprised to find that it was primarily reproductive prints, rather than original paintings and drawings, that adorned the walls of the Sleeper family’s sitting room. High-quality printed reproductions of European masterworks—especially mezzotints with their rich velvety-black inks—were both fashionable and expensive in America during this period. Note also the cabinet crowded with ceramics—a method of display that Henry Sleeper used at Beauport, including the one filled with Paul Revere’s silver depicted in this gallery.
Note also the artfully arranged books resting on the chair. The professional photographer who made this image—which presumably was “art-directed” by Henry Sleeper and possibly his mother—has made it seem as if one of the residents has just set the books down and left the room.
Like other privileged Bostonians, Henry Davis Sleeper (1878–1934) was photographed regularly throughout his life. There is a selection of photographs in the gallery below.