Follow the Water

Where is the Water?

Filoli’s collection includes many pieces connected to, or inspired by, water—from ship models to ceramic water pitchers to seascape paintings. As you walk through the House, join the scavenger hunt and find the QR codes to learn more about Filoli’s collection. Can you find all 15?

The figure of Neptune, Roman god of the seas, greets you as you enter the House. This porcelain statue was made in England in 1740. Can you spot his colorful dolphin companion?

Before the time of Google Maps, sailors in the middle of the ocean used geometry to figure out where they were. Special instruments, like this octant, could measure the angle between an object and the horizon.

This ship model took 6 years to build. It depicts the first large ship in the Matson Navigation Company fleet, owned by Lurline Roth’s father. Named the “Lurline,” it sailed the San Francisco - Hawaii trade route beginning in 1887. Captain Matson would later name his daughter after this ship.

The huge canvases in the Ballroom show a view of the lakeside Muckross Estate in Ireland, where the Bourns’ daughter Maud lived with her husband Arthur Vincent. Can you spot these two figures fishing? Legend has it that the standing man is Arthur, since he often bent one leg due to a war injury.

Look out for this birds-eye view of San Francisco in 1854. The print shows the rapidly growing city, as its population boomed in the wake of the Gold Rush. Ships wait at anchor in the Bay. Can you recognize any landmarks that are still there today?

You’ll have to have a sharp eye to find this small object. In the early 1900s, the Matson company started running luxurious passenger cruises to Hawaii. This souvenir lighter from the S.S. Lurline cruise ship is decorated with the Matson logo.

Among the family photos on display, can you find this 1921 image of a boy with a sailboat? Billy, Agnes and William Bourn’s grandson, used a stick to guide his boat on the water of the Sunken Garden pool. He even wore a sailor suit to match!

Hint: this metal model of a water temple may be smaller than you expect. William Bourn helped design the real-life version of it, which marked where several East Bay water sources meet in the Sunol Valley. The temple was inspired by Roman architecture.

Peek inside this object to see its wild wave pattern! The large Chinese bowl was made around 1870 and meant to display ornamental fish or lotus during a party. Before Lurline Roth auctioned off some of Filoli’s furniture in the 1970s, she told her staff that they could each pick a piece to keep. One of the gardeners chose this bowl, and it was later donated back!

A woman looks out to the sea in this small but colorful painting titled “Public Garden, Venice.” The artist, Bruce Porter, was also a landscape designer who helped create Filoli’s Garden. What do you think the woman is thinking about as she stares at the ocean?

Objects like this are nicknamed “Sailor’s Valentines.” Created in the 1800s, possibly in Barbados, this one features a design made from shells. Maybe a sailor, far from home, bought it as a souvenir to give to his love when he got home!

Among the many colorful drinking vessels on the Dining Room table, can you spot this novelty cup in the shape of a sailor? He has red cheeks and appears to work on a ship called the “HMS Cheerio.” In a meta twist, he clutches yet another cup in his hand.

Listen for the buzz from this electric callboard! Each of the family’s bathtubs upstairs had a button nearby so they could call down to the staff if they needed something. The dumbwaiter in the corner was used to send food and supplies up to the second floor.

As you walk down the hallway, you pass a huge, early 19th-century Chinese screen. It features many detailed landscape scenes. Can you spy these two men crossing the water in a boat?

Your last item to find is the “Nancy of Boston”! Can you find a drawing of her on a ceramic jug from the year 1800? Look closely and you’ll spot the American flag waving from her deck.