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Sweden Nationalmuseum Acquires Two Portraits by J. E. Alphen

Posted in museums by Editor on June 6, 2021

Johann Eusebius Alphen, Portrait of a Lady in a Blue Dress, 1767, watercolour and gouache on ivory
(Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, photo by Anna Danielsson)

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Press release (2 June 2021) from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

Nationalmuseum has acquired two portraits of women created by the Austrian court miniaturist Johann Eusebius Alphen in 1767. The portrayals of the models are unusually vivid, and the artist has even been carefully rendering the setting. The two portraits are unique because few signed works by Alphen have survived, as the artist was just 31 years old when he died.

In the mid-18th century, if a young artist wanted to further educate himself in miniature painting, Paris was one of the most interesting places to be. The city’s leading name was Jean-Baptiste Massé, a member of the academy and royal court painter. He revitalised miniature painting with his loose and unconventional brush technique. By this time Massé was no longer active as an artist, because he had started to have problems with his eyesight around 1740 and therefore declined to take on any more royal commissions.

Although Massé had essentially ceased painting, he would continue to play an important role as a teacher. In February 1764, the Austrian Johann Eusebius Alphen (1741–1772) came to Paris and was introduced to the French miniaturist. Yet Alphen was not the only student who quickly rose to favour. That same year, he faced competition from the Dane Cornelius Høyer, who also became a lodger with Massé until the master’s death in 1767. The two young artists, who were even the same age, each acquired the same technique of using loose brushwork. Alphen in particular became a virtuoso, as evidenced by the two recently acquired portraits of women. On their faces, he has combined a refined line and dot technique with a fluid brushstroke to depict clothing and other accessories. White highlights reinforce the sense of materiality and illusionism. This approach is reminiscent of pastel painting, in which Alphen was also skilled. As with his teacher Massé, the red and yellow dyes have faded into carnation, contributing to the unusually bright, powdered look of the faces. Only blue and grey halftones remain.

Johann Eusebius Alphen, Portrait of Countess van Lebel, 1767, watercolour and gouache on ivory
(Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, photo by Anna Danielsson)

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Both portraits are signed and dated “Peint par Alphen 1767.” It is unclear whether they were painted while the artist was still in Paris or recently after his arrival in Vienna. The younger lady, dressed in red, sits at a table with notes and a pen in front of her, as well as a book in one hand. The Canadian Mozart specialist Cliff Eisen of King’s College London has floated the theory that this young woman is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl, who was five years older than the composer. Alphen’s portrait has a direct counterpart in a Swiss private collection. This preliminary study purportedly has ownership-related links to other Mozart portraits. Even if this were not the case, Alphen met the Mozart family on several occasions. The first time was in Brussels in 1763, then three years later in Paris, and finally in Vienna in 1767–68. Their last encounter was in Milan in 1771, where Alphen had a one-on-one rendezvous with Mozart, who mentions their meeting in a letter to his sister Nannerl.

So who is this young woman in red? It is undoubtedly the same model as in the sketch, but is she Maria Anna Mozart? The portrait acquired by Nationalmuseum bears the signature “Comtesse von Lebel.” No countess with this name is known to have lived, but could the name could be a euphemism for the Baroness Berchtold von Sonnenburg, the real Nannerl? In truth, this woman bears little resemblance to other famous representations of Mozart’s sister from around the same time. While this little mystery may never be answered, we can still appreciate the fact that Alphen’s two portraits are unusual examples of the artist’s great virtuosity as a miniaturist.

Nationalmuseum receives no public funding for the acquisition of artworks but relies on donations and gifts from private individuals and foundations to enrich its collections. The acquisition has been made possible by generous contributions from Hjalmar and Anna Wicander’s donation funds.

At Auction | Vase Designed by Thomas Hope

Posted in Art Market, museums by Editor on June 4, 2021

Gilt bronze-mounted patinated copper two-handled vase (detail) by Alexis Decaix, designed by Thomas Hope for his Duchess Street Mansion in London, ca. 1802–03, 26 × 13 × 12 inches (65 × 34 × 31 cm). Heritage Auctions, 18 June 2021, Sale 8046, Lot #61046, estimate: $40,000 to $60,000.

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From the press release, via Art Daily:

An extraordinarily rare and important early 19th-century urn, thought lost to history, was recently discovered by Heritage Auctions and is set to go to auction June 18 in Dallas, Texas (Sale 8046, Lot 61046). Designed by Thomas Hope, the urn was found in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the collection of David D. Denham, where it had been modified into a side table. Heritage has set a conservative pre-auction estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 on the rare bronze. According to research, the urn’s mate resides in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (M.33-1983), the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design.

Gilt bronze-mounted patinated copper two-handled vase by Alexis Decaix, designed by Thomas Hope for his Duchess Street Mansion in London, ca. 1802–03.

“This important discovery was a remarkable surprise,” said Karen Rigdon, Director of Fine & Decorative Art at Heritage Auctions. “No one knew where the urn was for decades until we recognized it during a house call.”

Hope commissioned the vase, decorated with ormolu (gilt-bronze) mounts, for the dining room of his mansion located on Duchess Street in London. It was made by acclaimed French artist Alexis Decaix based on Hope’s design, which mirrored a classical volute krater (an ancient Greek vase with two handles which was used for mixing wine and water). Hope likely commissioned the one-of-a-kind pair of bronze urns directly from Decaix. Experts working with Heritage matched the urn’s historical background with telltale details confirming the vase is the pair to the one at the V&A. The newly-discovered vase’s specific placement of the mask mounts at the obverse and reverse matched the vase in the museum’s collection, as does the placement of specific notches and scratches made to each vase.

Hope, the scion of a wealthy banking family, made his London home into an outstanding example of Neo-classical design. In 1807, Hope published in London an illustrated account of the house and its furnishings in a book titled Household Furniture and Interior Decoration. The book had a considerable influence on other architects and designers working in the Greek Revival style.

“The appearance of this second example confirms Hope clearly took great care to ensure the vases would be displayed in perfect harmony, which supports what is known about his incredibly meticulous nature and approach to collecting,” according to Hope experts Philip Hewat-Jaboor and William Iselin, who worked with Heritage to confirm the vase’s authenticity.

Heritage experts discovered the urn in Tulsa in the collection of the late David Denham. “Denham was a well-known social figure in the area and admired for his collector’s eye and meticulous attention to detail,” Rigdon said. “The estate is unsure when the vase first entered Denham’s collection or when it was made into a side table,” she added. “But its discovery closes a chapter on the unknown history of this important artwork.”

NMWA’s Comprehensive Renovation To Begin in August

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on May 21, 2021

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Exterior, 13th Street and New York Avenue sides, Washington, D.C.
(Photo by Thomas H. Field, September 2008)

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From the museum’s press release (17 May 2021) . . .

Upgrades to historic building will enhance exhibition galleries, programming, scholarship, and accessibility and improve visitor experience.

The National Museum of Women in Arts (NMWA), the world’s only major museum solely dedicated to championing women artists, announces a plan for the comprehensive renovation of the museum’s historic building at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. State-of-the-art upgrades to the museum’s home, a 1908 Classical Revival structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will expand NMWA’s exhibition space and enhance its programming, strengthening its work for years to come. The plan requires the building to close to the public beginning 9 August 2021. Construction will commence on 1 September 2021 and will be completed in approximately two years.

The building’s first full renovation since 1987, the $66 million project will honor the structure’s history while improving its interior spaces, mechanical systems, and exterior envelope. The long-planned updates include enlarged gallery space to showcase historic and contemporary artworks and installations; a new destination for researchers and education programs; and enhanced amenities and accessibility for visitors. Infrastructure and storage upgrades will bolster the long-term conservation and security of the museum’s collection of more than 5,500 works.

“From its home in the nation’s capital, NMWA has given deserved prominence to groundbreaking women artists of the past and present for nearly 35 years, but the goal of equity for women through excellence in the arts has yet to be achieved,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “This renovation will ensure that the museum continues to promote the contributions of women artists in ways that engage audiences and advocates of tomorrow. Thanks to our founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband Wallace—whose bold and ambitious vision led them to collect art by women and create a museum for its permanent display—our building is the center of a worldwide movement that champions women in, and through, the arts.”

Beginning in 2015, NMWA undertook a rigorous assessment of the historic building and created an extensive plan for renovations that apply recent advances in engineering, building codes, and sustainability. The Baltimore-based architectural firm Sandra Vicchio & Associates was chosen to lead the project.

“It is a majestic structure—timeless and beautiful,” said Vicchio. “To protect the collection and enable NMWA to educate and engage the world more effectively, we must upgrade the building’s envelope, improve the performance of its systems, and make better use of its interior space. Revitalizing the building is all about positioning the museum for a triumphant future.”

Learning Commons, National Museum of Women in the Arts Renovation Project
(Rendering by Sandra Vicchio & Associates, LLC, with Marshall Craft Associates, Inc.)

The renovation project at NMWA will include
• Transforming the building to provide easier access for all visitors, with upgraded technologies and amenities as well as improved ADA accessibility
• Dedicating a new orientation gallery in the Great Hall that welcomes visitors, introduces the museum’s mission, and tells stories of women artists
• Renovating and enlarging galleries to accommodate historic and contemporary artworks and multifaceted installations
• Creating a new Learning Commons that features a major exhibition gallery, a state-of-the-art Library and Research Center, Reading Room, and an Education Studio for hands-on workshops, curated conversations, and classes, as well as flexible space for rehearsals and other museum events
• Improving wireless and touch-screen technology in galleries, which will enhance visitors’ experiences and learning opportunities with additional connectivity
• Updating the Great Hall and Mezzanine to preserve these iconic spaces while improving their functionality for museum events and facility rentals
• Installing new lighting, climate control, and security technology to support long-term conservation of the art and the overall comfort of visitors
• Enhancing collection storage space to store art more efficiently and care for works of art more effectively
• Improving signage to provide better wayfinding and easy-to-follow pathways throughout the museum
• Restoring the roof, historic cornice, and the building exterior in accordance with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office

During the closure, NMWA will continue to offer a robust slate of online programs and events, virtual exhibitions and digital content. Plans are also underway to present off-site exhibitions and special events.

In less than two years, NMWA has raised over $50 million towards a capital campaign goal of $66 million. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs in the construction industry, the renovation project costs have grown. Building on the campaign’s robust beginnings, NMWA will continue to solicit gifts throughout the life of the campaign.

“This renovation was the dream of our founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, who died on March 6th at age 98,” said Winton S. Holladay, Vice-Chair of the NMWA Board. “In the campaign’s quiet phase, donors and friends have stepped up in wonderful ways, putting us within sight of our campaign goal. With Billie’s passing, we are honored to carry her vision forward by completing this campaign and restoring our building for future generations.”

The museum’s capital campaign is directed by a steering committee of NMWA trustees, advisors, and senior museum staff and is currently supported by gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations. In addition, the museum has received federal and city funding through competitive grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (Museums for America Grant) as well as a first-ever 2020 Cultural Institutions grant from Events DC, a semi-public company supported by D.C. taxpayer funds.

For more information, the capital campaign website displays renderings, tracks project progress, and offers ways to get involved.

About the Historic Building

Designed by the architecture firm Wood, Donn & Deming, the museum’s Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1908 as a temple for the Masons, an organization that did not allow women members. The 78,810-square-foot main building is listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior façade incorporates Tuscan and Mediterranean design elements in addition to Masonic symbolism.

In 1983, Wilhelmina and Wallace Holladay purchased the property to establish a museum dedicated to women artists. The building was refurbished in accordance with the highest design, museum and security standards. After the extensive renovations, which won numerous architectural awards, the National Museum of Women in the Arts opened to the public on 7 April 1987. In 1993, the museum purchased 5,300 square feet of adjacent property, and, following further renovation, the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing opened in 1997, making the entire facility 84,110 square feet.

On Tour | Jan van Huysum Visits

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on May 20, 2021

From the National Gallery’s press release (May 2021). . .

Jan van Huysum, Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, 1736–37, oil on canvas, 134 × 92 cm (London: The National Gallery, NG796).

Following the positive response to Artemisia Visits (2019), the National Gallery is delighted to announce Jan van Huysum Visits which will see Van Huysum’s magnificent Flowers in a Terracotta Vase (1736–37) travel to six locations across the United Kingdom in summer 2021.

The painting will visit Cornwall, Norfolk, the East Midlands, South Yorkshire, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each display will explore one of six ‘Ways to Wellbeing’: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give, and Care (for the Planet). Flowers in a Terracotta Vase will be on tour for approximately three months, from early June.

In each region, the painting will pop up in an unusual or unexpected non-museum venue; locations include a food bank and community library, a covered market, a former department store and community centres. The tour will promote ways in which art and culture can support wellbeing and reach audiences who have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and the UK lockdown.

At the heart of Jan van Huysum Visits is engagement with local communities. In each setting the Gallery is working closely with the venue as well as a local museum or gallery to ensure that as many people as possible can engage with the painting and make it come alive in new and different ways.

Jan van Huysum (1682–1749) was a native of Amsterdam and the last of the distinguished still-life painters active in the Northern Netherlands in the 17th and early 18th centuries, an internationally celebrated artist in his lifetime. His spectacular Flowers in a Terracotta Vase—which shows over 30 species of flowers and plants in bloom, unfurling in exquisite detail—is no shy, hide-in-a-corner painting. It’s meant to dazzle and it does. Van Huysum is after, and achieves, excess: a celebration of nature, an entertaining puzzle, and a display of wealth, culture, and fashion.

The vase towers above the viewer who is placed firmly below, looking up at it in a niche suitable for a Classical sculpture. The vase overflows with all types of flowers, from florid roses, peonies, mauve and red poppies to the humbler primroses, apple blossom and bachelor’s buttons. In the Dutch Republic, horticulture was a subject of national pride. This is a rich man’s bouquet made to look winsome and natural, but in reality, it’s carefully orchestrated, displaying not only a passion for flowers but an immense knowledge and understanding of them. Butterflies, a yellow ant, a fly, and hothouse fruit are added to the exotic mix, bringing the garden into the house as was the fashion in interior decoration. But one or two of the luscious grapes are past their best, perhaps suggesting the brevity of life but more likely indicating that a painted picture lives on long after the insects and flowers have vanished. Crystal drops of cool water, feathery leaves, delicate petals breathing their scent, the quivering wings of the red admiral butterfly all evoke the senses of touch, of smell, even of taste.

Flowers in a Terracotta Vase celebrates the longevity of the painted image and enduring impact art can have on our hearts and minds. The Gallery invites audiences from across the nation to engage with this splendid picture during the longer, brighter days that summer will bring. The vibrancy and abundance of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase will resonate with so many who have sought comfort and hope in the natural world during a trying year. Whether it be tending to their own gardens, enjoying the beauty and wildlife of national parks and woodlands, or simply pausing to notice the dewy petals of fresh blooms, visitors will find echoes of that in the vivid colours of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase.

Jan van Huysum Visits is part of the National Gallery’s national touring exhibitions programme, which aims to share paintings across the UK, creating a range of ways for the widest possible audience to explore and be inspired by the collection.

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, says, “This astounding, large flower painting will make an unexpected appearance in unexpected venues across the country. I hope it will make people think about art and the beauty of nature, encourage their own creativity, and inspire them to visit their own local museum or art collection.”

PEM Names Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Executive Director and CEO

Posted in museums by Editor on April 27, 2021

Press release (22 April 2021) from the museum:

The Peabody Essex Museum today announces that Lynda Roscoe Hartigan will become PEM’s next Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Executive Director and CEO. Hartigan will assume her role on August 23, 2021 and become the first woman director of the nation’s oldest continuously operating museum.

Currently the Deputy Director for Collections & Research and Chief Innovation Officer at Canada’s largest and most visited museum, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Hartigan brings unparalleled organizational experience, a track record of excellence, and a progressive vision to advance PEM as a vital and positive force in people’s lives.

“We are thrilled to have Lynda at the helm, leading PEM boldly into the future,” said Stuart W. Pratt, Chair of PEM’s Board of Trustees. “As the Museum emerges from the pandemic and what has been the most extraordinary chapter in its 221-year history, Lynda’s leadership will provide a collaborative, confident spirit and an expansive vision for our staff, supporters, and community at large.”

Appointed as PEM’s first Chief Curator in 2003 and rising to Deputy Director in 2016, Hartigan led an ambitious, award-winning curatorial and exhibition program and reimagined the museum’s exhibition, publishing, and collection strategies. She oversaw the interpretation and reinstallation of PEM’s 40,000-square-foot wing that opened in 2019 and was integral to developing and advancing the museum’s collection stewardship, fundraising, education, digital, and global leadership initiatives.

“It is a tremendous honor to lead PEM, an organization whose focus on the potential of creativity, cultural understanding, and innovation are more relevant and needed than ever,” says Hartigan. “This is a pivotal moment for museums to stimulate conversation and connection with empathy and courage. I am passionate about ensuring that PEM welcomes all people to explore our shared humanity through the power of the arts and cultural expression.”

The leading scholar on American artist Joseph Cornell, Hartigan specializes in American art, especially modern, folk, and Black artists, yielding numerous widely recognized exhibitions and publications. Prior to joining PEM, Hartigan was Chief Curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., where she built internationally recognized collections by American Black and folk artists and led a major acquisitions initiative for modern and contemporary art.

Hartigan holds a B.A. in art history from Bucknell University and an M.A. in art history from George Washington University; she also attended the Getty Leadership Institute. Currently, she is a board member of the Association of Art Museum Curators.

Photo of Hartigan by Alex Paul, courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.

Cecilia Zhou, Nattier Makeup Tutorial

Posted in museums, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on April 25, 2021

From the Instagram account of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s European Paintings Department:

Cecilia Zhou, Nattier Makeup Tutorial
21 April 2021

Get your powder and rouge ready—we’re thrilled to introduce Cecilia Zhou’s makeup tutorial for Jean Marc Nattier’s Portrait of a Woman! In this tutorial, Cecilia provides us with an opportunity for close looking through the application of makeup, as she calls it, ”a kind of painterly reverse engineering.”

Jean Marc Nattier had enormous success portraying French aristocratic women: his innumerable portraits represent contrasting powdered skin and bright blush set against warm landscapes. Follow along as Cecilia explores the relationship between makeup, identity, and beauty in 18th-century France.

Jean Marc Nattier, Portrait of a Woman, 1753, oil on canvas (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982.60.42). More information on the painting is available here»

Louvre Collection Online

Posted in museums, resources by Editor on March 29, 2021

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (26 March 2021), via Art Daily:

The Louvre museum in Paris said Friday it has put nearly half a million items from its collection online for the public to visit free of charge. As part of a major revamp of its online presence, the world’s most-visited museum has created a new database of 482,000 items at collections.louvre.fr with more than three-quarters already labelled with information and pictures.

It comes after a year of pandemic-related shutdowns that has seen an explosion in visits to its main website, louvre.fr, which has also been given a major makeover. . .

The full AFP story is available here»

In Memoriam | Wilhelmina Cole Holladay (1922–2021)

Posted in museums, obituaries, on site by Editor on March 10, 2021

Press release (8 March 2021) from the NMWA:

Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, who founded the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), the first and only museum solely dedicated to championing women through the arts, died on Saturday, 6 March 2021, at the age of 98 in Washington, D.C. Against tremendous odds and with dedication, drive, and a singular vision, Holladay created a museum to help alleviate the underrepresentation of women artists in museums and galleries worldwide.

“For nearly 40 years, Wilhelmina Holladay has been the guiding light of our museum,” said Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “Mrs. Holladay knew the power of art and the importance of women in art and in the world. Her foresight in recognizing women artists of the past and championing women artists of the present by creating a new museum was visionary—even revolutionary—for the time. Her actions signaled a major shift in our thinking about art and society, and it is her genius and purpose we carry forward with us today.”

Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, A Museum of Their Own: National Museum of Women in the Arts (New York: Abbeville Press, 2008).

“Wilhelmina, ‘Billie’ as she was known to her friends, believed deeply in philanthropy and volunteerism,” said Board Vice-Chair and daughter-in-law Winton Smoot Holladay. “Her leadership and generosity established the museum, and she worked tirelessly to create an important institution where women artists could fully participate in and shape the national and international cultural conversation. Her unwavering sense of purpose and her love of art enriched the lives of all who were privileged to work alongside her.”

Holladay’s interest in art by women began in the 1970s, when she and her husband Wallace traveled widely to visit museums and galleries. They were particularly drawn to a painting they saw in Vienna, a 1594 still life by Flemish artist Clara Peeters. They saw additional paintings by Peeters at the Prado in Madrid. When Holladay attempted to learn more about the artist, she could find no information on Peeters—or any other female artist—in the standard art history textbook, H. W. Janson’s History of Art. Astonished by this discovery, the Holladays began to search for work by other women artists.

By the 1980s, the Holladay collection had grown to approximately 500 works by 150 artists, from the Renaissance to contemporary times. In addition to artwork, the Holladays kept an archive of catalogues, books, photographs, and biographical information on women artists. Nancy Hanks, then head of the National Endowment for the Arts, encouraged the Holladays to consider establishing a museum, and Holladay focused her considerable organizational and fundraising skills in this direction.

NMWA was incorporated in 1981, and for the next six years, Holladay opened her residence to the public for tours, traveled extensively to garner support for her idea, raised more than $20 million from public and private sources, purchased and renovated a historic building to house the collection, and donated her personal collection and library to the museum. On 7 April 1987, Barbara Bush, wife of the then-Vice President, cut the ribbon to open the museum in a 1907 Renaissance revival landmark building located two blocks from the White House.

NMWA’s collection has grown to include more than 5,500 works by approximately 1,000 artists, such as Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Judy Chicago, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Faith Ringgold, and Élizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun. Special exhibitions have included premier solo showings of work by Camille Claudel (19th-century French), Remedios Varo (20th-century Mexican), Lavinia Fontana (16th-century Italian) and Carrie Mae Weems (contemporary American). The diversity of women’s artistic creativity has been showcased in exhibitions featuring treasures from the Hermitage, pottery by American Indians, theatrical creations by Julie Taymor, representations of the Virgin Mary in Western art, abstract art by Black women artists, and work by emerging artists in the museum’s signature Women to Watch series. These exhibitions have broadened the art historical canon to be more open and inclusive.

The museum is also a leader in online content and arts education, serving the local community through outreach to D.C. public and private charter schools as well as developing an arts education model for schools nationwide. NMWA’s Women, Arts, and Social Change public program initiative offers a platform for speakers and attendees to advance ideas and solutions to society’s most pressing issues—especially those affecting women and girls—and inspires action in the arts and beyond. NMWA also publishes a triennial magazine, serves as a center for the performing and literary arts, and maintains one of the foremost repositories of documents and materials on women artists.

In over 35 years, the museum’s budget has grown to $11 million, and the full-time staff numbers 50. NMWA members and donors—nearly 13,000 strong—come from all over the United States and 21 other countries. Its network of national and international committees has 25 outreach groups with more than 3,000 dedicated members throughout the United States and around the world, including Chile, France, Peru, and the United Kingdom. The committees host regional programs and serve as ambassadors for the museum.

Holladay was born on 10 October 1922, in Elmira, N.Y. She developed an early appreciation of art from her maternal grandmother. She earned a BA degree from Elmira College in 1944, studied art history at Cornell University, and completed postgraduate work in art history at the University of Paris in 1953–54. During World War II, Holladay worked in Washington, D.C., where she met her husband, an officer in the United States Navy. She worked as social secretary to Madame Chiang Kai-Shek from 1945 to 1948, but after the birth of her son Wallace Jr., she dedicated herself to volunteer projects.

In addition to serving as the museum’s chair of the board, Holladay was active in many other ventures, serving on the boards of the National Women’s Economic Alliance, the Adams National Bank, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the World Service Council of the YWCA, the American Academy in Rome, the United States Capitol Historical Society, the National Gallery of Art’s Collector’s Committee, and the International Women’s Forum. In recognition of her service, Holladay received the National Medal of Arts as well as diplomatic orders from France and Norway. She also was regularly listed as one of the most powerful women in Washington, D.C. and received a lifetime achievement award from the District of Columbia. Among Holladay’s other awards for her service to women include induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, a lifetime achievement award from the Women’s Caucus for Art, the Women Who Make a Difference Award from the International Women’s Forum, and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the National League of American Pen Women. She received honorary doctorate degrees from four colleges.

Holladay was predeceased by a son, Scott Cole Holladay and her husband, Wallace F. Holladay. Holladay is survived by a son and daughter-in-law, Wallace ‘Hap’ Holladay Jr. and Winton Holladay; four grandchildren, Brook Holladay Peters (Brian), Fitz Holladay, Jessica Holladay Sterchi (Louis), and Addison Holladay (Eliza); and nine great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be announced at a future date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions may be made to the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

National Museum of Women in the Arts, at 1250 New York Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. Built in 1908 as a Masonic Temple—to designs by Wood, Donn, and Deming—the Renaissance revival style building has been home to the NMWA for 34 years. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, 2008.

Online Talk | A New Copley Acquisition

Posted in Art Market, museums, online learning by Editor on February 16, 2021

This Wednesday, from Vermont’s Shelburne Museum, as announced at ArtDaily:

Together Again: A New Acquisition Reunites a Pair of Copley Portraits
Online, Shelburne Museum, 17 February 2021, 6pm (ET)

Join Shelburne Museum director Tom Denenberg to learn about an exciting new acquisition for the Museum’s American painting collection and the intriguing circumstances that led to the reunion of a long-separated couple.

The Shelburne Museum has acquired a portrait by John Singleton Copley entitled Mrs. Mercy Scollay (née Mercy Greenleaf), a pendant painting to the portrait in the museum’s permanent collection, Mr. John Scollay, reuniting the long-separated portraits of wife and husband, Shelburne Museum.

John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Mrs. Mercy Scollay, 1763, 90 × 71 cm (Shelburne, VT: Shelburne Museum).

John Scollay, a chairman of the Boston Board of Selectmen and member of the Sons of Liberty, commissioned Copley (1738–1815), the preeminent portraiture artist in the American colonies, for this portrait of his wife as a pendant to his own portrait. Completed in 1763, Mrs. Scollay’s portrait demonstrates Copley’s talents and abilities as a painter as evidenced through the beautifully rendered fabric draped around the sitter.

Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb assembled the American paintings collection with the intention of juxtaposing well-known artists such as Copley with lesser-known itinerant or ‘folk’ painters. She purchased the portrait of John Scollay from Harry Shaw Newman at the Old Print Shop in New York City in 1959. The Museum’s extensive collection of American paintings tell a story about how the fine arts developed and came of age in the United States, and the reunion of these pendants continues to enrich the narrative.

The museum is presenting a webinar on the new acquisition and the story of how these two paintings were reunited. Denenberg will discuss the intriguing circumstances that led to the reunion of the long-separated couple. The evening will be a tale of revolutionary Boston, featuring the young John Singleton Copley and his portraits of Mercy Greenleaf and John Scollay. Live Q&A follows the presentation. Together Again: A New Acquisition Reunites a Pair of Copley Portraits is at 6pm on Wednesday, February 17. To register visit the museum’s website.

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The portrait of Mrs. Mercy Scollay sold at Sotheby’s American Art sale on 11 December 2020 (Lot 23) for $126,000.

Williamsburg Receives Hennage Bequest of Decorative Arts

Posted in museums by Editor on January 13, 2021

Press release (12 January 2021) from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation:

Pepper Box, John Blowers, Boston, ca. 1741, silver (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, bequest of Joseph and June Hennage).

Theirs was a love story of many dimensions: a love for one another, a love of America and its decorative arts, and a love of Colonial Williamsburg. The culmination of Joseph and June Hennage’s passion and evidence of their extraordinary philanthropic generosity is the bequest of their entire American decorative arts collection, which they amassed over 60 years, to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The Hennage Collection is a singular gift that will transform the already renowned American furniture and furniture miniatures, silver, and ceramics collections at Colonial Williamsburg. Totaling more than 400 objects of various media, the Hennage Collection also includes paintings, prints, and antique toy animals, vehicles, and figures. To honor this significant bequest, an exhibition of highlighted objects from the bequest, A Gift to the Nation: The Joseph and June Hennage Collection, will open at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the recently expanded Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, in the spring.

“Joe and June Hennage always sought objects of excellent quality and condition. Their gift consequently comes as an outstanding addition to Colonial Williamsburg’s collections. It includes superior examples of furniture from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, as well as silver by the major East Coast artisans of that day and a variety of other materials,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for museums, preservation, and historic resources. “The Hennages’ decision to place the entire collection in a museum setting is a clear example of their public-spirited generosity.”

A Love Affair Begins

In 1945 after being discharged from the United States Navy, Joe Hennage (1921–2010) returned to Washington, D.C. and soon thereafter founded Hennage Creative Printers. When he found himself in need of secretarial help in 1946, he hired June Stedman (1927–2020) who had come to Washington to begin her career after finishing school in Virginia. They were married in 1947 and their partnership blossomed. In the late 1940s they made their first visit to Colonial Williamsburg, and their life-long love for the historic city began. Their first collecting passion was not antiques, but memorabilia relating to Joe’s hero, Benjamin Franklin, and books on printing, the profession the two men shared. June’s love of small objects extended to what she and Joe referred to as ‘penny toys’, or miniature animals, vehicles and figures, as well as miniature furniture, including tables, chests, chairs, and beds. By the early 1950s, they were also collecting antique Chinese bronzes, porcelain, snuff bottles, and netsuke. Although they did not begin attending the annual Antiques Forum, which began at Colonial Williamsburg in 1949, until later in the 1950s and more regularly in the 1960s, Joe often named this event as a great influence on them both. In 1965, Joe was asked to serve on the Fine Arts Committee of the State Department, a group formed to assist White House and State Department Curator Clement Conger in raising funds for the architectural renovation and furnishing of the diplomatic reception rooms and remained a member and sometime chairman of the Committee until 1996. By the early 1970s, the Hennages were collecting American antiques with increased fervor and attending Antiques Forum regularly.

“Joe and June were born-again patriots and their excitement in being American was demonstrated by their passion for American furniture in the 18th century,” said John A. Hays, deputy chairman, Christie’s, Inc. “They loved furniture that made a big statement, and their collection includes many pieces that boldly say ‘I am American.’”

The Love Affair Blossoms

High Chest, Philadelphia, ca. 1770, mahogany, sabicu, yellow pine, and tulip poplar (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, bequest of Joseph and June Hennage, 1989-450).

Over the years Joe and June gave the State Department several exquisite pieces of American furniture and helped to transform the State Department diplomatic reception rooms significantly. Joe’s involvement with this effort led to his being asked to head similar Americana drives for the National Archives and for the Supreme Court. During the Bicentennial year, the Hennage’s philanthropic spirit provided numerous extraordinary gifts of important objects to various American institutions including Mount Vernon, Monticello, the White House, the National Portrait Gallery, and Colonial Williamsburg among others. The Hennages shared these gifts with such institutions, which are among the finest examples of American craftsmanship at its highest levels, not simply because they are masterpieces but in hopes of enhancing the public’s education about its material culture. Although gardening was among June’s greatest pleasures, her interest in and deep knowledge of art and antiques led to her also serving as a member of the Department of State Fine Arts Committee.

Colonial Williamsburg, however remained a special place to both Joe and June where they could learn about and relive American historical events, and this unique interest caused them to use their resources to help the Foundation flourish. They became charter and life members of the Foundation’s highest-level annual giving group, the Raleigh Tavern Society, as well as members of the President’s Council, a group dedicated to nurturing greater awareness of Colonial Williamsburg through philanthropic support. In 1985, the Hennage Auditorium at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, was named in their honor, and in 2019, the Foundation named a new gallery in the same museum the June Stedman Hennage Gallery in honor of June’s 90th birthday. By 1988, the Hennages completed a Georgian-style home in Williamsburg, which they named Hennage House, and they made this their home after relocating from Chevy Chase, Maryland. This home was where they lived with their extensive collections and viewed themselves as the custodians of the objects rather than their owners. Over time, they gave them to Colonial Williamsburg for safekeeping.

“Colonial Williamsburg inspires us all over time, but some take the message to new heights. That is true for Joe and June Hennage whose Georgian-style house on South England Street reflects the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg and whose stunning collection of masterpieces inside—the furniture in particular—carries the analogy to conclusion,” said Philip Zea, president and CEO, Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts, and former curator of furniture at Colonial Williamsburg from 1999 to 2001. “The Hennages’ significant legacy and generosity secure their presence in Williamsburg and make it possible to use the present tense when we think about them for some time to come.”

The Love Endures

Joe and June Hennage’s passion for their American decorative arts and for Colonial Williamsburg led to the decision to bequeath their entire collection to the Foundation upon their deaths because they believed in Colonial Williamsburg’s unique ability to understand the objects’ significance to American history and make that story accessible to all. Their extraordinary assemblage of material culture is transformative. Already renowned for having the best in British and American fine and decorative arts from 1670–1840, the Wallace Museum will now make its furniture collection complete in its ability to show the full geographic spectrum from Maine to Louisiana through superlative pieces from major East Coast centers. Knowing of this promised gift has also helped to shape the American silver collection over the past decade as acquisitions were made with the Hennage collection in mind; these objects will now serve as the backbone of Colonial Williamsburg’s American silver holdings. The Hennage Chinese export porcelain objects will provide the Foundation with the first pieces from two different services bearing the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati, a fraternal organization of American and French officers who served in the Revolutionary War. The miniature furniture from the bequest will nearly double the number of pieces currently in Colonial Williamsburg’s collection (separate from its doll house furniture and child’s chairs) and these objects, too, will be transformative in the variation of forms include in the Hennage collection, which includes blanket chests, chest of drawers, a high chest, a desk, chairs, tables, looking glasses, beds, and tall case clocks, as well as the exceptional quality of many of the pieces. These are but a few examples of how this bequest will significantly enhance the way in which the Art Museums can interpret America’s enduring story for its visitors each year.

According to Erik K. Gronning, Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist and Head of Americana Department at Sotheby’s, the Hennages formed “a collection for the ages assembled during the zenith of the 1970s and 1980s collecting period. With great advisors, such as the Israel Sack firm, they acquired many American masterpieces. Their passion for their collection never ceased; it wasn’t just a passing fancy for them…. They were among the very first people to build a new home in period style to display their collection to its fullest. They did it all and didn’t leave a stone unturned. They were ardent supporters of scholarship, and they believed it was their responsibility to further the knowledge about Americana and American history.”

As many have said, Joe and June Hennage were rare people and it was a privilege to know and learn from them. Their dedication to American decorative arts was immense, and their love of America even more so. Through this extraordinary bequest, this collection will live on for generations to come, and visitors to Colonial Williamsburg will have the opportunity to deepen their appreciation through these superlative objects of material culture.

Additional information on particular pieces, including the objects pictured here, is available from this press release addressing highlights of the collection.

Five-piece Garniture, Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1785, hard-paste porcelain
(Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, bequest of Joseph and June Hennage)

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Note (added 12 January 2021) — The original posting did not include the image of the five-piece garniture.