Metropolitan Museum Journal 2022

Posted in journal articles by Editor on March 13, 2023

The eighteenth century in the latest issue of The Met’s journal , and a reminder that digital copies are free!

Metropolitan Museum Journal 57 (2022)

Louis François Roubiliac, Francesco Bernardi, known as ‘II Senesino’ (ca. 1686–1758), ca. 1735, terracotta with later marble base, bust: 62 × 55 × 23 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Gift of Irwin Untermyer by exchange, 2016.47).


• Malcolm Baker, “Sculpting Reputation: A Terracotta Bust of Senesino by Roubiliac,” pp. 25–39.
• Ronda Kasl, “Witnessing Ingenuity: Lacquerware from Michoacán for the Vicereine of New Spain,” pp. 40–56.
• Wendy McGlashan, “John Kay’s Watercolor Drawing John Campbell (1782),” pp. 57–66.
• Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, “A Tale of Two Chapeaux: Fashion, Revolution, and David’s Portrait of the Lavoisiers,” pp. 67–84.

R E S E A R C H   N O T E S

• Ludmila Budrina, “Malachite Networks: The Demidov and Medici Vases-Torchères (1821–23) in The Met,” pp. 148–59.

In the News | ‘Prize Papers’ in UK’s National Archives

Posted in resources, the 18th century in the news by Editor on March 13, 2023

Photograph from The Prize Papers Project.

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From The NY Times (and Art Daily) . . .

Bryn Stole, “Long-Lost Letters Bring Word, at Last,” The New York Times (9 March 2023). Researchers are sorting through a centuries old cache of undelivered mail that gives a vivid picture of private lives and international trade in an age of rising empires.

In a love letter from 1745 decorated with a doodle of a heart shot through with arrows, María Clara de Aialde wrote to her husband, Sebastian, a Spanish sailor working in the colonial trade with Venezuela, that she could “no longer wait” to be with him.

Later that same year, an amorous French seaman who signed his name M. Lefevre wrote from a French warship to a certain Marie-Anne Hoteé back in Brest: “Like a gunner sets fire to his cannon, I want to set fire to your powder.”

Fifty years later, a missionary in Suriname named Lene Wied, in a lonely letter back to Germany, complained that war on the high seas had choked off any news from home: “Two ships which have been taken by the French probably carried letters addressed to me.”

None of those lines ever reached their intended recipients. British warships instead snatched those letters, and scores more, from aboard merchant ships during wars from the 1650s to the early 19th century. . . .

Poorly sorted and only vaguely cataloged, the Prize Papers, as they became known, have now begun revealing lost treasures. Archivists at Britain’s National Archives and a research team at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in Germany are working on a joint project to sort, catalog, and digitize the collection, which gives a nuanced portrait of private lives, international commerce, and state power in an age of rising empires. The project, expected to last two decades, aims to make the collection of more than 160,000 letters and hundreds of thousands of other documents, written in at least 19 languages, freely available and easily searchable online. . . .

The full article is available here»

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From The Prize Papers Project:

The objects in the Prize Papers Collection were impounded by the High Court of Admiralty of the English and later British Royal Navy between 1652 and 1817, and they are now held by The National Archives of the UK.

The Prize Papers were collected a result of the early modern naval practice of prize-taking: capturing ships belonging to hostile powers, dealing severe blows to their military, political and economic capabilities. This practice had its heyday in the 17th and 18th centuries, and so the collection proves a fascinating insight into the formative period of European colonial expansion. . . .

The practice of prize-taking resulted in a vast, extraordinary and partly accidental archive of the early modern world, contains documents from more than 35,000 captured ships, held in around 4088 boxes and 71 printed volumes. The Prize Papers Collection includes at least 160,000 undelivered letters intercepted on their way across the seas, many of which remain unopened to this day. These are accompanied by books and papers on all manner of legal, commercial, maritime, colonial, and administrative matters, often embellished with notes and doodles. Documents in at least 19 different languages have been identified so far, and more languages are likely to be discovered as the project progresses. Alongside this written material is a variety of small miscellaneous artifacts, including jewelry, textiles, playing cards, and keys.

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In June 2022, the project published the first of the Prize Papers from the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), with papers from ten French ships.

The project has a YouTube site with a handful of video presentations, including a fascinating session on letterlocking.

Online Talk | Beckfords and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Posted in books, on site, today in light of the 18th century, online learning by Editor on March 13, 2023

From The Salisbury Museum and Eventbrite:

Amy Frost, The Beckfords and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Online, Thursday, 16 March 2023, 7.30pm (GMT)

Beckford’s Tower, 1826–27 (photo by Tom Burrows).

From the purchase of Fonthill in Wiltshire by William Beckford in 1744 to the death of his son in Bath 100 years later, the social advancements and retreats of the Beckford family relied upon the profits of transatlantic slavery. This talk will explore the extensive collecting and architectural creations of the Beckfords, and highlight how they were made possible by a vast fortune built from the stolen labour of thousands of enslaved Africans. This is a fundraising talk for The Salisbury Museum: £12 (£9 members).

Dr Amy Frost is an expert on the life and work of William Beckford and curator of Beckford’s Tower in Bath.

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Press release (7 March 2023) from the Bath Preservation Trust:

Alex Wheatle and State of Trust Join Forces with Beckford’s Tower

As part of the ‘Our Tower’ regeneration plan, Beckford’s Tower and State of Trust join forces with author Alex Wheatle to deliver interpretive dance performance of Wheatle’s prize-winning 2020 novel Cane Warriors.

book coverCane Warriors tells the story of Tacky’s Rebellion, an uprising of Akan people fighting for their freedom that took place in Jamaica in 1760, and included enslaved people on a plantation owned by the Beckford family. The new project will put a spotlight on the link between the Beckford family and the rebellion and engage with a wide cross section of people in the process, particularly young people in the community and online, in order to develop an interpretive dance performance of the novel. The research and development will build a team of exceptional performers. New choreography, music, photography, and film will be created, and there will also be a virtual gallery and film archive for future use.

The resulting performances will take place in March 2024. Beckford’s Tower will host one performance, with the other two to be held in other Bath and Bristol venues. The new production has been supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

The performance, which will be filmed for posterity, will encourage attendees to engage with one of the most troubling aspects of William Beckford’s legacy: his claiming in ownership enslaved people, which funded his lifestyle and his vast collections. The aim is to build awareness around the effects of enslavement and colonialism on the culture and psyche of modern Britain and improve community relations through greater understanding of the shared history.

Built between 1826 and 1827, Beckford’s Tower was intended to house the collections of books, furniture, and art that were owned by William Beckford, whose wealth was gained from his ownership of plantations and enslaved people in Jamaica. Beckford would ride up to the Tower from his townhouse in Bath’s Lansdown Crescent every morning before breakfast, and enjoyed its solitude and the panoramic views from the Belvedere at the top.

Today Beckford’s Tower is owned and run by Beckford Tower Trust, part of Bath Preservation Trust. The landmark is a Grade 1 listed monument and is the only museum in the world dedicated to the life and work of William Beckford. In 2019, the Tower was added to the National ‘At Risk’ Register, sparking a major project to raise the necessary funds to repair and restore the Tower, transform the museum, open up the landscape and create opportunities for volunteering, formal learning and community engagement. In 2022, thanks to a £3million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the fundraising target of £3.9 million was reached. £480,000 of partnership funding had already been secured, with support from Historic England, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Medlock Charitable Trust, Historic Houses Foundation, Pilgrim Trust, and several other organisations, as well as £50,000 in public donations. This second grant of £100,000 will enable Beckford’s Tower to deliver the Cane Warriors project, which will compliment the wider work taking place at the Tower.

State of Trust Cane Warriors Meeting

Commenting on the new project, Director of Museums Claire Dixon said: “One of our main priorities at Beckford’s Tower is to ensure the transparent and sensitive portrayal of William Beckford’s troubling legacy; as his building and collecting was funded through his ownership of plantations it is vital that this is made clear in the regeneration of the Tower and its new exhibition. We approached State of Trust owing to their reputation for delivering powerful performances that tackle challenging social themes, and we look forward to working with them on this exciting project. It will enable us to explore more creative and artistic events, engage new and more diverse audiences, and embed this approach in the new museum programme when it opens in 2024. I would like to thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players for their support in helping us to fully contextualise and reconfigure the story of Beckford’s Tower for a modern-day audience.”

Deborah Baddoo MBE and Steve Marshall, the Directors at State of Trust and State of Emergency Limited, said: “We are delighted that Heritage Lottery has agreed to fund the R&D phase of Cane Warriors. When Alex Wheatle first approached us, nearly three years ago, with a view to our making a dance interpretation of his novel, we didn’t realise what an uphill struggle it would be to achieve funding. Thanks to Bath Preservation Trust, and the synergy between the story and the history of Beckford’s Tower, we are now able to start working on what we believe will be an important work of African contemporary dance theatre. This production will allow us to pursue a long-term artistic vision, which began with the foundation of State of Emergency Limited in 1986, and to hone our skills as directors and performers. For us Cane Warriors is the natural progression of all that has gone before. Working alongside the history of Beckford’s Tower, this project can make the connection between historic buildings in our local communities and the transatlantic slave trade, and reveal their hidden histories. We feel it is very important to reach and engage with people, particularly young people, on this subject, and through a range of activities, including workshops in schools, and online events, we know we can make a difference. Through the media of dance, music, and film, we aim to bring the story to life, to animate history in a way that is relevant and impactful to our contemporary lives, to get beyond the facts and to achieve a level of understanding and truth.”

author headshot

Alex Wheatle MBE

Alex Wheatle MBE, author of Cane Warriors, said: “The real story of Chief Tacky’s rebellion has been passed down through generations of my mother’s family who resided in Richmond, St Mary’s parish in Jamaica—very close to the plantations where Chief Tacky and his Cane Warriors toiled and planned their Easter rebellion in 1760. I was simply compelled to relate this story to the wider world, and I’m very proud that State of Emergency will tell the story in the art form of dance. Indeed, the Cane Warriors will be honoured.”

Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Inclusive heritage is very important to us at The National Lottery Heritage Fund which is why we are proud to support projects that engage people with the complexity of our history. This project will help broaden everyone’s understanding of Beckford and tell his story and its significance to Bath. Our history can teach us a great deal about ourselves and who we want to be, and we encourage people to explore, understand, and learn from it.”

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