Matilda Wilson had an eye for art, her Parducci ceiling is no exception.
Oakland University is not only home to the Meadow Brook estate, but also holds one of Corrado Parducci’s, a well known Detroit sculptor and artist, most masterful works of art tucked into the dining room ceiling of the hall. Parducci was hired by the Wilson family in 1929 to craft the intensely detailed ceiling out of plaster in their Rochester Hills home.
Born in Italy in 1900, Parducci immigrated to the U.S. with his father at only four-years-old. After being placed in an orphanage in New York, Parducci attended art classes in the basement of a nearby school where he developed his love for creating art.
The Wilson family loved to travel and learn about different cultures and styles. Chinese, French, English, and Italian influences can be seen scattered tastefully throughout the estate. Parducci could skillfully emulate any style as an architectural sculptor, a reason he was contracted to do many jobs not only in Detroit but across Michigan.
“Parducci The Man Who Made Detroit Beautiful” is a documentary that explores the life and works of Parducci. Curator at Meadow Brook Hall Madelyn Azadkowolski explained in the documentary how, “[the Wilson’s] wanted a home that looked like it was built 500-years-ago.” Parducci was the best in Detroit at the time and was really an American craftsman as he had lived in the U.S. for most of his life and learned his skill from U.S. crafters. For these reasons the Wilson family hired him. Parducci’s ability to craft in unique styles also allowed the Wilson family to customize the ceiling, much like the rest of their estate’s cultural influences.
The grand dining room ceiling was designed and sculpted by Parducci. From the floral themes that decorate the entire length and width to the many cherubs with fingernails and eyelashes. Stephen Goody, professor of art history at Oakland University, explained how cherubs are often a part of an artwork that many sculptors or painters forgo adding extraneous details too. This can be seen even on a work as great as the Sistine Chapel painted by Renaissance painter and sculptor Michelangelo. Parducci added these extra details to every inch of his work in the home, and every cherub on the ceiling is unique with every lifelike detail.
As the entire ceiling is sculpted out of plaster, it’s very heavy, making it a necessity to secure the ceiling carefully when it was hung in 1929. Meadow Brook Hall tour guide James Wolfe explained how Parducci sculpted the ceiling in four-by-four feet sections. Each section was then hung and secured to the floor of the story above. After every section was hung in place and secured, additional plaster was used to conceal the connecting edges of each piece to allow the ceiling to look as one piece.
Parducci’s ceiling can be seen in the background of Miley Cyrus’ music video for her European single, “Who Owns My Heart.” Cyrus filmed the music video at the estate in 2010. While Cyrus disrespected the estate and is not invited back, Parducci’s Meadow Brook masterpiece has been seen over 139,367,510 times in Cyrus’ music video on her Vevo channel. This might not have been the publicity Parducci would want for his work, however millions of people have seen his work. This may have left many tweens wondering about the masterpiece hidden behind Cyrus and encourage them to learn more about the man who made Detroit beautiful.