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Michel Félice Corné House

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c. 1822. 2 Corne St. (southeast corner of Mill St.)

This was the home of an Italian emigré mural painter famous for landscapes and seascapes. He arrived in the United States in 1799 and immediately painted rooms at the Derby mansion in Salem, later at the John Hancock House in Boston (demolished), and, in 1809, scenes of Naples at the Sullivan Dorr House in Providence ( PR75). His only known paintings in Newport are small ones of ships, which were once painted onto the walls of the southwest chamber of this house before their removal (they are now in the Newport Historical Society). He purchased this site with a barn in 1822 and, by legend, in the tradition of artists, remodeled it into this four-bay house with an ell (although he may also have built it anew). Its special delight is the proportioning of the openings. Many three-quarter houses have a regular rhythm of four windows across the top story; others have only a slightly wider interval between the rhythm of three and the odd beat. Here (whether calculated or not) the pause in rhythm is more decisive. It almost, but not quite, permits the insertion of another window. The subtle, off-beat balance thereby suggests symmetry in the imagination—a mode of ambiguity sympathetic to postmodernist revivals of colonial inspiration which admire the piquant effects of almost-but-not-quite symmetries. This piquancy is here reinforced by delicate detailing. To the delights Corné brought to his adopted town add one other: he reportedly introduced Newport to the tomato.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Michel Félice Corné House", [Newport, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-NE67.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 538-538.

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