Opened to the public in 1999, Rienzi is the center for European decorative arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Comprising a remarkable art collection, a house, and gardens, Rienzi was given to the museum by arts patrons Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III.
Rienzi is situated on 4.4 acres in the Homewood Addition of River Oaks between two ravines that lead into Buffalo Bayou. The Mastersons purchased this property from their friend and neighbor, Miss Ima Hogg, in 1952. That year, the Mastersons began working with the noted Houston architect John F. Staub, the same architect who designed Bayou Bend.
Rienzi, completed in 1954, evokes both early-18th-century English Georgian architecture and the designs of the great Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). The dramatic natural setting inspired a house with a one-story, symmetrical façade, a balustrade, and a parapet. The grand facades of the house allowed the Mastersons and the architect to realize their dream of creating a contemporary Palladian residence -- a Texas villa overlooking a spectacular pool and landscape.
Rienzi's collection consists of one of the finest collections of Worcester porcelain in the United States, a noteworthy collection of English and European paintings and an outstanding collection of English furniture.
Houston philanthropists and MFAH patrons Harris Masterson III and his wife, Carroll Sterling Masterson, gave their home, Rienzi, to the museum along with their superior collection of English furniture.
Harris Masterson III acquired his first piece of 18th-century Worcester in 1943 while stationed in England during the war. This purchase initiated a life-long interest in the pursuit of early Worcester which led to the collection at Rienzi, one of the finest and largest of its kind in North America.
Painting and Sculpture
Mr. Masterson was a born collector with a keen interest in European painting and sculpture. As a result of his vision, Rienzi has rich holdings in English portraiture as well as Spanish and Italian religious painting.
English and Continental Ceramics
Although Rienzi is most known for its collection of Worcester porcelain, the ceramics collection also includes significant mid-18th to early 19th-century holdings from English and Continental factories.
The Mastersons commissioned noted landscape architect Ralph Ellis Gunn to design their gardens. Rienzi’s gardens are an accomplished combination of formal gardens and native plants that form a protective screen at the perimeter of the property. Today the gardens are a project of the Garden Club of Houston.