Enfilade

Exhibition | The Object of My Affection

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 13, 2018

Now on at the The Fitzwilliam:

The Object of My Affection: Stories of Love from the Fitzwilliam Collection
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 30 January — 28 May 2018

Love is very much in the air in this exhibition, which contains objects alive with the range of emotions that it commands: from admiration and affection, joy and passion, longing and despair, to insults, indifference, grief and remembrance. The exhibition showcases the Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection of valentines, which date from the 18th century to the 20th and include a wide variety of sentimental and decorative types as well as comic examples. Alongside the valentines will be an assortment of other objects relating to the theme of love, including posy rings, love tokens, and works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) and James Gillray (1756–1815).

Rebecca Virag, Valentines: Highlights from the Collection at The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge: The Fitzwilliam, 2018), 120 pages, £10.

It is probably a little known fact that the Fitzwilliam Museum has a large collection of around 1,600 valentines, which range in date from the early eighteenth century to the 1920s. The vast majority were left to the Museum in 1928 by mathematician and Fellow of Trinity College, J.W.L. Glaisher. Two more Cambridge alumni, the Rev. Herbert Bull (Trinity) and Sir Stephen Gaselee (King’s) also gave their much smaller collections of valentines to the Museum in 1917 and 1942. The Bull valentines are particularly fascinating as they are rare survivals of mid-eighteenth century silhouette cut-paper work and are unlike anything collected by either Glaisher or Gaselee. The Glaisher collection alone is one of the largest amassed by a single collector currently in a UK public collection.

The Glaisher valentines have not been seen in public since 1995, some twenty-three years ago, and since then the entire valentine collection has been catalogued, researched, photographed, and re-housed. This selection of highlights has been published to coincide with a new display of some of these extraordinary objects as part of the exhibition The Object of my Affection: Stories of Love from the Fitzwilliam Collection.

The Huntington Acquires Major Collection of Valentines

Posted in museums by Editor on February 13, 2018

Press release (12 February 2018) from The Huntington:

Fraktur labyrinth, Pennsylvania-German folk art, inscribed 1824; drawn and hand-colored on paper. 15½” x 15½” framed; designed as an endless knot with classic Pennsylvania-German motifs including hearts, tulips, and compass roses, and offered as a token of affection (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens).

A spectacular trove of thousands of valentines and related material—some dating as far back as the late 17th century—has been given to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, the institution announced today. Considered the best private collection of its kind in the world, the Nancy and Henry Rosin Collection of Valentine, Friendship, and Devotional Ephemera contains approximately 12,300 greeting cards, sentimental notes, folk art drawings, and other tokens of affection that trace the evolution of romantic and religious keepsakes made in Europe and North America from 1684 to 1970. The Rosins had given the collection to their son, Bob, who together with his wife, Belle, donated it to The Huntington for safekeeping. “This collection was carefully created by my parents,” he said. “I can’t think of a better place for it to be, given its historical and educational value.”

The Rosin Collection brims with well-preserved paper (and in some cases, vellum or mixed media) materials that range from lacy 18th-century devotional cards, hand-cut by French and German nuns, to elegant Biedermeier-era (1815–1848) greeting cards complete with hand-painted love scenes, gilded embossing, mother-of-pearl ornaments, and silk chiffon. The collection includes cameo-embossed lace paper valentines from England, elaborate three-dimensional and mechanical Victorian paper confections, as well as handmade works of American folk art demonstrating traditional paper-cut techniques (scherenschnitte) and colorful Germanic Fraktur illustrations. Some of the most historically significant items include heartrending Civil War soldiers’ valentines with personal notes detailing the hardship of war and longing for home. The Rosin Collection also contains bitingly satiric ‘vinegar’ valentines, dance cards, memory albums, and watch papers (sentimental notes inserted into pocket watches), among other items relating to the history of love and devotion.

“We are profoundly grateful to Bob and Belle Rosin for this invaluable, and truly beautiful collection that was so carefully developed,” said Sandra L. Brooke, Avery Director of the Library at The Huntington. “It will dramatically enhance our holdings in several areas to which we are committed—especially 19th-century social history and visual culture, and of course, our renowned U.S. Civil War material.”

Nancy Rosin is president of the National Valentine Collectors Association, president emerita of the Ephemera Society of America, and a member of the American Antiquarian Society and The Grolier Club. She says collecting valentines has been her “passionate obsession” for 40 years. “My quest to acquire sentimental expressions of love, especially those celebrating Valentine’s Day—a significant social event that was enjoyed by all strata of society—grew into a desire to share them with the public,” said Rosin. “Bob grew up watching us build this collection piece by piece. I’d long hoped the collection would end up where it would have the most research value and the highest standard of preservation, so it is deeply gratifying to know Bob and Belle have given these works to The Huntington.”

The Huntington’s collection of historical prints and ephemera was begun by its founder, Henry E. Huntington, about 100 years ago, and has since grown to contain hundreds of thousands of items that support public exhibitions and scholars’ research, especially in the areas of British and American cultural history. The Rosin Collection significantly increases the institution’s distinction of being one of the leading archives for ephemera studies.

“This is a collection I’ve been familiar with and admired for many years,” said David Mihaly, Jay T. Last Curator of Graphic Arts and Social History at The Huntington. “It is without a doubt the best in private hands in terms of quality and range within its focus—to say nothing of the sheer wonder and delight the items provide. Pull a string and an ingenious cobweb device lifts to reveal a mouse in a trap; unfold a die-cut valentine and watch a majestic carriage spring to life in 3-D; read a witty poem and realize it’s a hilarious jab at a Victorian-era politician; look closely at a tiny, centuries-old card and see it was delicately perforated with hundreds of tiny pinpricks, and hand painted so expertly. We certainly will enjoy researching and processing this collection—and hope to plan an exhibition in coming years.”

The institution expects to start preserving and cataloguing the Rosin Collection this year, with research access soon to follow.