Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Midelfort, Lucy (2017). An Examination and Condition Assessment of Robert Winthrop Chanler's Pool Grotto Ceiling Mural at Vizcaya, Miami. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


The following thesis addresses the state of conservation of the exterior ceiling mural by Robert Chanler at Vizcaya, the 1916 winter home of James Deering in Miami, Florida. The fantastical depiction of shimmering fish and delicately glazed high relief seashells painted on the ceiling of the pool grotto has deteriorated greatly over time, so much that only ~10% of the original surfaces remain visible today. No comprehensive documentation of the conditions of the ceiling exists, yet the ceiling is a rare example of the artist’s mural work and after having undergone a variety of under-documented interventions, it still impresses. At a time when Vizcaya is considering options for its interpretation, this thesis serves not only as a status report, but also as an analytical tool to be used in considering future interventions. The resulting detailed digital documentation of conditions and synthesis of previous analyses serves as a point of reference for considering alternative interpretive approaches within the context of conservation principles as well as an appropriate treatment plan.


documentation, conservation, bas relief, tropical, distemper



Date Posted: 26 May 2017