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Extravagant Dining: Glass Epergnes from the Collection of Dorothy Todd Kent

At the Brunnier Art Museum

Ann Brunnier Decorative Arts Gallery

Tuesday, August 22 - Sunday, December 17, 2023

The epergne, a strange word, and an even stranger object to modern eyes. An epergne is essentially a spectacular centerpiece for the presentation of fruit, sweets (or what was called sweetmeats), and later flowers on the dining table. It would have been the dramatic central focus for a perfectly set table from the 18th century and into the 20th century. Throughout this over 200-year history, the epergne significantly changed in shape, design, and material. Like many luxury goods of the 18th century, the desire for and interest in owning an epergne trickled down from the tables of the wealthiest diners to the ever-growing middle classes of the 19th and 20th centuries. New materials, along with the Industrial Revolution, allowed expensive tableware to be more accessible and the demand for a well-laid table continued to grow. With the advent of Victorian life, the proliferation of tableware only heightened an interest in developing more unique, colorful, and extravagant epergnes.

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Epergne History by Adrienne Gennett, Curator of Brunnier Art Museum

Epergne History

How to pronounce "epergne" (


Epergnes in the University Museums permanent collection

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Exhibition Programs

Find full descriptions of programs on the University Museums Calendar. All programs are free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged but not required. Click the event title for more information and/or to register. Events listed below will be at the Brunnier Art Museum (1805 Center Dr., 295 Scheman Building, Ames, Iowa) unless otherwise noted. Programs are subject to change. Check the University Museums Calendar and Facebook page for the latest events information.


Reception | Extravagant Dining: Glass Epergnes from the Collection of Dorothy Todd Kent

Sunday, September 17, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Celebrate the addition of a unique group of 19th and early 20th century elaborately formed and boldly colored glass epergnes. Generously donated by Karen and Robert Duncan, the collection was lovingly built by Karen’s mother, Dorothy Todd Kent, in Clarinda, Iowa. Enjoy light refreshments.


Epergnes and Other Things: Elements of the Victorian Dinner Table
with Etiquetteer Robert B. Dimmick

Tuesday, September 26, 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Virtual on Zoom (link)

The 19th century saw many innovations in what people used on their dinner tables — and how they behaved around them, too. join etiquette expert Etiquetteer Robert B. Dimmick and curator Adrienne Gennett discussing how a Victorian dinner party would have been conducted and the many interesting things that would have been used.


Curator's Tour of Extravagant Dining and Industrial Design
with Adrienne Gennett

Sunday, December 10, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Join Brunnier Art Museum curator Adrienne Gennett for a closing tour of the exhibitions in the Ann Brunnier Decorative Arts Gallery. Learn about Victorian epergnes in dining and industrial design.

Visit the Brunnier Art Museum

Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday, 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Closed to the public Mondays. ISU curriculum tours may be scheduled on these days with a 2-week notice.

Closed University Holidays

Address: Scheman Building (2nd Floor), 1805 Center Drive, Ames, Iowa
Admission: The cost is free; however, there is a suggested donation of $8.

This exhibition is curated and organized by University Museums with special thanks to Karen and Robert Duncan whose generous gift of objects to the University Museums Permanent Collection made the exhibition possible. Support was given by University Museums Advancement Council and University Museums Membership. Programs are made possible through support from the Kathy & John Howell Art Enrichment Program.

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