V&A Cabinet of Curiosity Project, with Artist Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Posted in museums by Editor on March 22, 2018

As Eileen Budd writes on the V&A’s blog (28 February 2018) . . .

Cupboard, unknown, 1678–80, possibly Rotterdam, Netherlands (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, W.7-1914).

The Project
The Cabinets of Curiosity project examines the History of Collecting over the centuries, from Early Modern, to 19th Century to Contemporary. Dr Hannah Young is currently undertaking research that seeks to uncover some of the unexplored histories of the V&A, which in many respects became a large-scale nineteenth-century ‘cabinet of curiosity’. In particular, she is investigating some of the links between British slave-ownership and the development of the museum. Her research focuses on absentee slave-owners who used their wealth, rooted in the exploitation of enslaved people, to invest in collections in the metropole. Objects that were once collected by absentees and their descendants can now be found throughout the museum.

Why Involve an Artist in Residence?
There are multiple histories (our histories) that are hidden in plain sight within our collections.  Such a wealth of stories, voices and lives that surfacing these and even knowing where to begin, can be challenging. We want to open up a new dialogue around our collections and so it’s vital that we have these conversations beyond academia. Artists are often better able to ask questions beyond historical ones. Inviting an artist to interrogate how this history has (and has not) been remembered and how the legacies of this history continue to shape the world we live in today can help change the way we think about the museum collections. We had an amazing response to our open call, from so many talented artists that selecting the right person for the project was incredibly hard. However, I am now delighted to announce that we have selected Victoria Adukwei Bully.

The Artist
Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a British-born Ghanaian poet, writer and filmmaker based in London. Her work explores memory and cultural heritage—their loss and (re)creation—from a diasporic vantage point. Engaging with archival texts in addition to oral and indigenous histories, her practice posits memory as a form of creative activism which seeks to revivify bodies of knowledge that face erasure.

An alumna of the Barbican Young Poets programme, Victoria’s work has been commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts, in addition to featuring on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. She was shortlisted for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2016, and is a Complete Works Poetry fellow. Her debut pamphlet, Girl B, edited by Kwame Dawes, forms part of the 2017 New-Generation African Poets series. Victoria is the director of MOTHER TONGUES, a poetry translation and film initiative supported by Arts Council England and visual arts charity Autograph ABP.

We are excited to be working with her and can’t wait to share the work with you as it progresses.

Cabinets of Curiosity project duration: 2016–18
Project co-leads: Dr Marta Ajmar, Deputy Director VARI, Dr Hannah Young (Maternity cover); Dr Lisa Skogh, external fellow
V&A co-investigator: Dr Martha Fleming, Previous Deputy Director VARI
Artist in Residence: Victoria Adukwei Bulley
Visiting researcher: Earle Havens, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Sheridan Libraries and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures, Johns Hopkins University

NMWA’s Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, 2018

Posted in museums by Editor on March 17, 2018

Today at the NMWA:

Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon 2018
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., 17 March 2018

Celebrate Women’s History Month and help us improve Wikipedia articles about women artists.

In honor of Women’s History Month, NMWA will host its 5th annual Art+Feminism Edit-A-Thon focused on improving Wikipedia entries related to notable women artists and art world figures. This event is part of a global initiative to help improve Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. A 2010 Wikimedia survey found that less than 13% of its contributors are women. The lack of female participation has contributed to the absence of notable women on Wikipedia. In more than 480 events, over 7,100 people have created and improved more than 11,000 Wikipedia articles.

No experience necessary—just bring a laptop, motivation to combat gender bias, and a belief in equal access to quality information resources. People of all gender identities and expressions are invited to participate.

10:00–11:00  Welcome and editing tutorial
11:00–3:00  Research and editing
Lunch at noon

Use the hashtags #ArtAndFeminism and #NowEditingAF to share about the event on social media!

Reservations required—use the passcode ‘AF’. Please bring a laptop with power cord. Extension cords and power strips are highly recommended.

Cleveland Acquires Maratti Portrait

Posted in museums by Editor on March 16, 2018

Press release (14 March 2018) from The Cleveland Museum of Art:

Carlo Maratti, Portrait of Francesca Gommi Maratti, ca. 1701, oil on canvas, 98.5 × 74.5 cm (Cleveland Museum of Art).

Recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art include a magnificent portrait in oil on canvas by Carlo Maratti, the leading painter in Rome at the end of the 17th century; two key works by American photographer Edward Weston that indicate his transition from pictorialism to modernism; and two large-scale contemporary African sculptures by South African artist Kendell Geers and Cameroonian artist Hervé Youmbi.

Carlo Maratti (1625–1715) is often regarded as the last major exponent of a classical tradition that began with Raphael nearly two centuries earlier. Maratti was the leading painter in Rome in the mid to late seventeenth century. Favored by wealthy patrons, Maratti’s primary achievement lay in his ability to synthesize the light and movement characteristic of the Roman Baroque with classical ideals of beauty.

This portrait was painted shortly after Maratti’s marriage to Francesca Gommi in late 1700 as an homage from the artist to his new wife. Gommi had been Maratti’s mistress and artist’s model since at least the 1670s. She is depicted enveloped in lavender-blue drapery, and her hair is elaborately dressed with ribbons and jewels. In her left hand she holds up a drawing to which she gestures with her right. Introducing an allegorical element into a portrait by means of a painting-within-a-painting was a device that Maratti had employed in portraits as early as the 1650s and was probably inspired by portraits of the High Renaissance. The drawing represents Venus in the workshop of Vulcan, forging the love-darts of her adolescent son Cupid.

Although drawings by Maratti are found in major collections throughout Europe and North America, there are relatively few paintings by the artist in public collections outside Italy. Portrait of Francesca Gommi Maratti, a late work by the artist, is particularly appealing for the identity of its sitter and the charming iconography inspired by the artist’s deep love for his subject. The Cleveland Museum of Art has strong holdings in Italian paintings of the 17th century with religious and historical themes. This work is the first Italian Baroque painted portrait to join the collection. Portrait of Francesca Gommi Maratti will go on view in the museum’s Julia and Larry Pollock Focus Gallery beginning March 17, 2018, as part of the museum’s exhibition Recent Acquisitions 2014–2017. . .

The full press release is available here.

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Maratti’s Portrait of Francesca Gommi Maratti, was part of Nicholas Hall’s exhibition Paintings by Carlo Maratti organized to coincide with TEFAF New York in October of 2017. Previously, in July 2016, it was included in Robilant Voena’s installation for Masterpiece London, and before that, in January 2014, it was shown in New York as part of Sotheby’s selling exhibition Painting Passion: The Baroque in Italy, curated by Scott Schaefer.

Melinda Watt Appointed Curator of Textiles at AIC

Posted in museums by Editor on March 14, 2018

Press release (12 March 2018) from the AIC:

Melinda Watt, Chair and Christa C. Mayer Thurman Curator of Textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago (Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, announced today the appointment of Melinda Watt as the new Chair and Christa C. Mayer Thurman Curator of Textiles. Watt most recently served as Curator in the Department of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture (2016–18) and supervising curator for the Antonio Ratti Textile Center (2009–18) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she oversaw exhibitions, research, and collections management for over 16,000 Western European textiles and 500 fans and led one of the largest, most technically advanced facilities for the study and storage of textiles in any major art museum in the world. She helped define a comprehensive, inclusive strategy for the care and research of works from all of the world’s civilizations—archaeological fragments, tapestries, carpets, quilts, ecclesiastical vestments, silks, embroideries, laces, velvets, and more—from 3000 BC to the present.

Watt will now lead the Art Institute of Chicago’s internationally renowned Department of Textiles and oversee its extensive collection of more than 13,000 textiles and 66,000 sample swatches ranging from 300 BC to the present, with particular strengths in Pre-Columbian textiles, European vestments, tapestries, woven silks and velvets, printed fabrics, needlework, and lace. The department has also strong holdings in 16th- and 17th-century English needlework, printed and woven materials of the 18th and 19th centuries, American quilts and woven coverlets, Eastern textiles, and 20th-century fiber art.

In announcing this appointment, Rondeau said: “Melinda has an outstanding reputation as a talented curator, an expert researcher and respected scholar, and brilliant administrator and leader. I am thrilled for our museum and our visitors that she is joining us in this crucial position and will re-energize our ambitious efforts to grow and elevate the reputation of our renowned Textiles department and present innovative and dynamic exhibitions.”

Watt shared: “From the earliest days of my career, I have admired the supreme quality and breadth of the textile collection at the Art Institute, so it comes as a great honor to be asked to lead the Department of Textiles. This is truly a unique opportunity to augment the museum’s already stellar collection and to have an impact on the scholarly field at large.”

Watt began her tenure at The Met in 1994, in The Costume Institute as a Study Storage Assistant, and soon took on increasingly complex and leadership roles, culminating in her leadership of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center beginning in 2009 and a curatorial rise within the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts to become a full Curator in 2016. Her exhibitions at The Met include: The Secret Life of Textiles: The Milton Sonday Archive (2017–18), American and European Embroidered Samplers, 1600–1900 (with Amelia Peck, 2015–16), Elaborate Embroidery: Fabrics for Menswear before 1815 (2015), William Morris: Textiles and Wallpapers (with Connie McPhee and Alison Hokanson, 2014), Interwoven Globe: The International Textile Trade, 1500–1800, (co-curator with Amelia Peck et al., 2013–14), An ‘Industrial Museum’: John Forbes Watson’s Indian Textile Collection (2013–14), Renaissance Velvet: Textiles for the Nobility of Florence and Milan (2011–12), and European Textiles from the Collection of Friedrich Fischbach (2010).

Earlier in her career, Watt lectured and instructed at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, at The Graduate Center at the City University of New York, at New York University, and at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, NY. She has also lectured and published widely, from New York to Chicago and Copenhagen to Beijing, on subjects as diverse as Renaissance and Baroque luxury textiles, Anglo-Indian hangings, flora and fauna in English embroidery, Isabella Stewart Gardner’s pearls, mid-century American fashion, nature in western art, and dressing for 17th-century portraiture.

Watt earned her BFA, with a concentration in Art History, at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. She holds an MA in Costume Studies from New York University.

New Acquisition | Am Not I A Man and a Brother

Posted in museums by Editor on March 2, 2018

Press release, via Art Daily (1 March 2018). . .

Am Not I A Man and a Brother, ca. 1800 (Liverpool: International Slavery Museum). The painting is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade on 5 July 1787.

The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has been awarded a significant grant to support the acquisition of its first painting to depict the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition. The £50,000 used to acquire Am Not I A Man and a Brother, a painting dating from around 1800, is the result of a joint funding effort, made possible through a generous grant award by Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.

The painting’s dominant motif is that of an enslaved African, kneeling, bound in chains and set against the backdrop of a Caribbean sugar plantation. It is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade on 5 July 1787 and is considered to be one of the first instances of a logo designed for a political cause, used famously by the potter Josiah Wedgwood. A significant acquisition for the UK, it is only the second known painting to exist featuring this motif—the only other being The Kneeling Slave at the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull.

Stephen Carl-Lokko, Curator, International Slavery Museum said: “This acquisition represents the first painting ever to be acquired by National Museums Liverpool to depict the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition, and we are very pleased to add it to our collection. Resistance is a key part of the history we bring to life in the International Slavery Museum, and abolition is a very important part of this wider narrative. The painting is a remarkable surviving product of the early phase of the British movement to abolish the transatlantic slave trade during the 18th and 19th century.”

Following restoration and cleaning work to be carried out on the painting, it will go on display in the International Slavery Museum towards the end of 2018. The painting was in a private collection previously.

Stephen Deuchar, Director, Art Fund said: “We are proud to be able to support the International Slavery Museum in acquiring this fascinating version of an iconic image. It will undoubtedly enrich the museum’s narrative around abolition and its important place in British history.”

The painting is another acquisition the International Slavery Museum has announced under the Transatlantic and Contemporary Slavery Collecting Project, part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme. Previous announcements under this project have included the acquisition of a copper engraving by the famous British caricaturist James Gillray and the first example of an account by a female anti-slavery campaigner, into the Museum’s collection.

Am Not I a Man and a Brother is one of several iconic paintings relating to all aspects of the transatlantic slave trade, which are now part of the collection at National Museums Liverpool, including The Hunted Slaves by Richard Ansell and The Black Boy by William Windus, both on display at the International Slavery Museum and a 1768 portrait of Liverpool merchant Richard Gildart by Joseph Wright of Derby at the Walker Art Gallery. The first painting to depict the theme of abolition at the International Slavery Museum, Am Not I a Man and a Brother is also part of a wider collection of objects and documents exploring abolition, including a porcelain sugar bowl from 1820–30 inscribed “East India Sugar. The produce of Free Labour”and a 1793 edition of the autobiography of the famous Black anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano.

The International Slavery Museum highlights the international importance of enslavement and slavery, both in a historic and modern context. Working in partnership with other organisations with a focus on freedom and enslavement, the Museum provides opportunities for greater awareness and understanding of the legacies of enslavement today.

Social Media | Redressing Pleasure

Posted in exhibitions, museums by internjmb on February 25, 2018

Social media and crowd sourcing campaigns can be daunting tasks for museum professionals. The Museum of London’s recent #redressingpleasure campaign offers an exemplary model. With fashion curator Timothy Long’s Twitter and Instagram videos reaching thousands, their efforts have been both engaging and effective.
Intern JMB

From the Museum of London:

Timothy Long, our fashion curator, has been posting some selfies from inside our Costume Store, as part of our month-long Redressing Pleasure campaign. He’s highlighting some of the most fascinating fashions from our collection of 18th- and 19th-century clothing and picking the best to include in our new, updated Pleasure Gardens gallery display.

This exquisite c. 1790 dress is one of the artefacts we want to conserve and exhibit as part of #redressingpleasure. The conservation will be done by Textile Conservator @melina.plottu. While the bodice is in near mint condition, the skirt needs attention as it is sewn to a thin and fragile silk ribbon waistband, which is not strong enough to support the weight of the skirt. We need your support to help us conserve the waistband and a few other areas. We also need your support to help us reproduce some petticoats, which is a fun, yet time-consuming process—as the shape must be cut to properly exhibit the skirt (and to fit the mannequin).

Oh wow! What a treasure. This late 18th-century dress was donated with dozens of ‘scrap’ pieces. As I started to go through these pieces, I was shocked and delighted to find identifiable parts, giving us glimpses of older incarnations of the dress. While the sleeves and the inner layer of the bodice appear to have remained throughout each upgrade, the exterior to the bodice and parts of the skirt, were cut off and kept. We would like to include this dress in our new Pleasure Gardens display, but it requires some creative solutions to put it back together again and then to build a mannequin to exhibit it properly, including petticoats. Will you help us put the ‘Queen of the Night’ back together again?

A Victorian Archeress! It doesn’t get much better than this. This stunning ensemble was donated to the Museum of London in 1954. It was worn by Mrs Fanny Giveen (1833–1863). If you know anything about her, please do get in touch. This ensemble will be our ‘performer’ in the 19th-century side of the gallery. Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens had ‘archery fetes’ in the 19th century, represented by this costume. We are so pleased to have an excuse to exhibit this incredible ensemble. However, we must reproduce her skirt and undersleeves and I hope to buy an original 1850s women’s archery bow, to complete the ensemble.

Our Archeress received such a wonderful response on social media that I recorded a second video. Thank you! I thought you might like to see more of the ensemble. Every page of the notebook is filled with scores, lists and drawings…all appear archery related and all written by Fanny Giveen herself! And then the water coloured targets… I’m in love.


We hope to exhibit this 1830s pelisse next to the men’s 1830s coat. We are calling this ‘couple’, Jeremiah and Electa. I fell in love with this pelisse immediately. For women’s fashion, I think the period around 1830 is fascinating. The odd proportion in design, enormous sleeves, towering hats, and feathers. We may even get to work with ‘sleeve supporters’ (parts of a costume, not donors to #RedressingPleasure). I am really looking forward to seeing this pelisse conserved and mounted, with all the correct undergarments and accessories.

Follow Timothy Long on Twitter or Instagram to see these how we’re restoring these objects for display, and how you can help us to put them on display in our new Pleasure Gardens.

Wallace Collection Announces £1.2million New Exhibition Space

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on February 21, 2018

The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons, 2005)

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As announced by The Wallace Collection (13 February 2018) . . .

The Wallace Collection has secured funding to develop expanded exhibition galleries, tripling the capacity of the museum’s existing exhibition space and setting the scene for an ambitious programme of temporary, ticketed [paid] exhibitions. The new space will enable the museum to explore aspects of its existing collection in more depth and collaborate with other institutions, creating partnerships both within the UK and internationally. This transformative project has been made possible by the generosity of The Linbury Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, and an anonymous major donor, creating facilities that reflect the vision and ambition of the Director and Board of Trustees and the growing number of museum visitors.

The new space opens on 19 June 2018 with an inaugural exhibition marking 200 years since the birth of the museum’s founder, Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890), celebrating him as a great philanthropist and undiscovered cultural luminary. Sir Richard Wallace: The Collector highlights for the first time Sir Richard’s personal contributions to the Collection we know today, focusing on the diverse and idiosyncratic works of art he acquired and his considerable philanthropic legacy. Featuring over twenty works of art collected by Sir Richard, the exhibition explores his eclectic tastes and highlights some of the unexpected treasures of the museum, ranging from a gold trophy head from the Asante Kingdom to imperial ceremonial wine cups from China and a majestic ostrich figure made by the Augsburg silversmith Elias Zorer.

In 2019, Henry Moore: The Helmet Head Series (working title) will be our first paid exhibition, presented in partnership with the Henry Moore Foundation. Moore’s powerful sculptures and drawings will be juxtaposed with Renaissance helmets from the Wallace Collection, which he studied while he was a student at the Royal College in the 1920s. Moore took great inspiration from the Arms and Armour galleries at the Wallace, and this exhibition will demonstrate for the first time a direct connection between Moore’s work and works of art on display within the museum. This inaugural exhibition will be followed by a wide ranging programme of both contemporary and old master exhibitions that will present our extensive collections of paintings, sculpture, armour, and decorative arts in a new light.

Dr Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection, says: “The Wallace Collection is the greatest gift ever made to the nation, and this new space will enable us to shine a light on the immense quality of our works of art and raise the profile of the museum. The exhibition programme at the Wallace will provide an opportunity to get to know our collection in new ways as well as collaborate with other cultural institutions. Thanks to the generous support of three major donors, who have made it possible to extend our exhibition galleries, we will be able to reach our potential as a truly international institution, sharing the museum with a broader and more diverse audience both at home and abroad.”

Rediscovered: Portrait of Saint-Simon-Montbléru

Posted in museums by Editor on February 17, 2018

Press release from Art Daily (16 February 2018). . .

Vicente Lopez, Claude-Anne de Rouvroy, Marquis de Saint-Simon-Montbléru, 1815–19 (Washington DC: American Revolution Institute).

The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati in Washington, D.C., is pleased to announce the discovery of a unique portrait of a French general: Claude-Anne de Rouvroy, Marquis de Saint-Simon-Montbléru (1743–1819), who was instrumental in winning the final great battle of the Revolutionary War. The Institute just acquired the painting from a family in Spain. It is now on display at the headquarters of the American Revolution Institute—the first time the painting has been on view in the United States in its two-hundred-year history.

In the fall of 1781, Saint-Simon commanded some 3500 French soldiers. Arriving from the West Indies, they landed at Jamestown, Virginia and joined the much smaller American army under Lafayette near Williamsburg. Together they kept Cornwallis pinned at Yorktown. Washington and Rochambeau arrived with the main French-American army from the north a few weeks later. Saint-Simon commanded the left wing of the allied army at the Siege of Yorktown, barring the roads toward Williamsburg and preventing the British army under Lord Cornwallis from escaping by land. Saint-Simon was wounded but refused to leave the lines until the British army surrendered. Though shot in the leg, he mounted his horse to take part in the surrender ceremonies. Shortly thereafter, he sailed back to the West Indies with the French navy and never returned to the United States.

Americans quickly forgot about him. Other French leaders—Lafayette and Rochambeau, mainly—are remembered today. Mention Saint-Simon and even people who know a good deal about the American Revolution are likely to ask ‘who’?

“One of the main reasons Americans forgot him is that we didn’t know what he looked like,” says Jack Warren, director of the American Revolution Institute. “There wasn’t a single portrait on public display in the United States—or in Europe either.”

That’s changed. The portrait now on display at the Institute was painted between 1815 and 1818 by Vicente Lopez, the greatest Spanish portrait painter of the early nineteenth century. The painting has been in private hands for two hundred years. It was briefly displayed at the Prado in 1902 but hasn’t been seen in public since. It has been the property of a Spanish family for several decades, but even they forgot who the sitter was. It took a good deal of research to confirm his identity.

An aristocrat, Saint-Simon escaped France during the French Revolution and led a small army loyal to the king in a war against the French revolutionary government in the Pyrenees. He was made a general of the Spanish army, and led Spanish troops against Napoleon. Captured by the French, he was sentenced to death for treason. Napoleon commuted his sentence to life imprisonment, from which he was released when Napoleon fell from power. He lived in Spain for the rest of his life.

The portrait tells his story. The old hero wears the elaborate uniform of a Spanish general, with the blue and white sash and star of the Order of Charles III, the highest Spanish military honor of the time. He also wears a gold and silver medal suspended from a yellow ribbon, presented by King Ferdinand VII to soldiers who suffered imprisonment at the hands of the French. And above them all is the eagle insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati, the private patriotic organization founded by George Washington and his officers to perpetuate the memory of the American Revolution. Saint-Simon was an original member. Some thirty-seven years after the Siege of Yorktown, he remembered it as one of the proudest moments of his life.

“We started searching for a portrait of Saint-Simon a decade ago,” Jack Warren says, “when we were planning an exhibition on the Siege of Yorktown. We couldn’t find one. An old and not very good engraving in a mid-nineteenth-century book suggested that there was a portrait, but it seemed to be irretrievably lost. So much art was destroyed, damaged or displaced in Spain during their civil war in the 1930s, that we concluded that it may have gone missing then. Its identity was lost, so that when the portrait finally surfaced last year it took some research to be certain Saint-Simon was the subject.”

“This is the perfect home for this portrait,” says Warren. “The purpose of the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati is to ensure that Americans understand and appreciate the achievements of the American Revolution—the event that gave us our independence, our republic, our national identity, and the ideals of liberty, equality, natural and civil rights and civic participation that shape our country and the world. The Revolution was the great transforming event of modern history. Men like Saint-Simon who participated in it knew that they had been a part of something extraordinary. It’s our job to share their stories.”

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.

New Acquisitions at the DIA

Posted in museums by Editor on January 19, 2018

Press release (18 December 2017) from the DIA:

Out of the Crate: New Gifts and Purchases
Detroit Institute of Arts, opened January 12

Attributed to Juan Pascual de Mena, Saint Benedict of Palermo, 1770–80, coniferous wood, pigment, gold (Detroit Institute of Art).

The Detroit Institute of Arts opened a gallery dedicated to some of the museum’s newest acquisitions while also providing the public with a look at the art acquisition process. The gallery, called Out of the Crate: New Gifts & Purchases, opened January 12.

A selection of recent purchases and gifts chosen by DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons are on view for approximately six months, after which they will be replaced with newer acquisitions. “The DIA has one of the most significant art collections in the United States, and one way we maintain this quality is by acquiring new artworks every year,” said Salort-Pons. “Thanks to generous donors, the DIA has been able to establish funds designated for art acquisitions only, with which we are able to strengthen our collection. This gallery offers a transparent look at the DIA’s collecting process and policies while giving visitors a first look at both recent purchases and gifts.”

Before the DIA acquires a work of art, it goes through a rigorous assessment to ensure its quality and authenticity. Informational materials will provide an overview of the entire process, from initial research to approval by the board of directors, and the roles various experts play along the way.

Seven artworks are featured in the first installation:
• Attributed to Juan Pascual de Mena, Saint Benedict of Palermo, 1770–80, coniferous wood, pigment, gold. Museum purchase.
• Unknown artist, Maternity Figure (Obaahemaa), 19th century, Akan (Asante), African, wood with pigment. Museum purchase.
• James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Salute Dawn, 1879, etching with drypoint. Museum purchase.
• Lajos Mack, Vase, ca. 1900, slip-cast ceramic with eosin glazes. Gift of Dr. Theodore and Diana Golden.
• Hiroshi Sugimoto, Fox, Michigan, 1980, gelatin silver print. Museum purchase.
• Cristina Iglesias, Untitled (Room 11 [-1999], edition 1/15, 1999, ink on copper plate. Gift of Janis and William M. Wetsman.
• Cornelia Parker, There must be some kind of way outta here, 2016, mixed media. Museum purchase.