Exhibition | Project Blue Boy

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on August 6, 2017

Press release (3 August 2017) from The Huntington:

Project Blue Boy
The Huntington, San Marino, September 2018 — September 2019

Thomas Gainsborough, The Blue Boy, ca. 1770; oil on canvas, 71 × 49 inches (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens).

One of the most famous paintings in British and American history, The Blue Boy, made around 1770 by English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788), will undergo its first major technical examination and conservation treatment. Project Blue Boy begins on August 8, 2017, when the life-size image of a young man in an iconic blue satin costume will go off public view for preliminary conservation analysis until November 1. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, home to The Blue Boy since its acquisition by founder Henry E. Huntington in 1921, will conduct the conservation project over a two-year period. The final part of the project will largely take place in public view, during a year-long exhibition, also called Project Blue Boy, presented from September 2018 to September 2019 in the Thornton Portrait Gallery, where the painting traditionally hangs.

“We are profoundly conscious of our duty of care towards this unique and remarkable treasure,” said Steve Hindle, The Huntington’s Interim President and W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research. “The Blue Boy has been the most beloved work of art at The Huntington since it opened its doors in 1928. It is with great pride that we launch this thoughtful and painstaking endeavor to study, restore, and preserve Gainsborough’s masterpiece. The fact that we are able to do so while inviting the public to watch and to learn is both gratifying and exciting—not least since the project is so perfectly suited to our mission.”

The Blue Boy requires conservation to address both structural and visual concerns. The painting is so important and popular that it has been on almost constant display since The Huntington opened to the public almost 100 years ago. “The most recent conservation treatments have mainly involved adding new layers of varnish as temporary solutions to keep The Blue Boy on view as much as possible,” said Christina O’Connell, The Huntington’s senior paintings conservator and co-curator of the exhibition. “The original colors now appear hazy and dull, and many of the details are obscured.” According to O’Connell, there are also several areas where the paint is beginning to lift and flake, making the work vulnerable to loss and permanent damage; and the adhesive that binds the canvas to its lining is failing, meaning the painting does not have adequate support for long-term display. These issues and more will be addressed by Project Blue Boy.

In addition to contributing to scholarship in the field of conservation, the undertaking will likely uncover new information of interest to art historians. O’Connell will use a Haag-Streit surgical microscope to closely examine the painting. To gather material information, she will employ imaging techniques including digital x-radiography, infrared reflectography, ultraviolet fluorescence, and x-ray fluorescence. The data from these analytical techniques will contribute to a better understanding of the materials Gainsborough procured to create The Blue Boy while at the same time revealing information about earlier conservation treatments. The Huntington will address several questions. “One area we’d like to better understand is, what technical means did Gainsborough use to achieve his spectacular visual effects?” said Melinda McCurdy, The Huntington’s associate curator for British art and co-curator of the exhibition. “He was known for his lively brushwork and brilliant, multifaceted color. Did he develop special pigments, create new materials, pioneer new techniques?” She and O’Connell will build upon clues gleaned from previous conservation projects to learn more. “We know from earlier x-rays that The Blue Boy was painted on a used canvas, on which the artist had begun the portrait of a man,” she said. “What might new technologies tell us about this earlier abandoned portrait? Where does this lost painting fit into his career? How does it compare with other portraits from the 1760s?” McCurdy also looks forward to discovering other anomalies that may become visible beneath the surface paint, and what they might indicate about Gainsborough’s painting practice.

The Huntington’s website will track the project as it unfolds.



National Museum Wales Acquires Rare Richard Wilson Portrait

Posted in museums by Editor on August 4, 2017

Press release (7 July 2017) from the UK’s Art Fund:

With support from Art Fund, National Museum Wales has acquired the painting Portrait of a Lady (ca. 1750), which is now on display at National Museum Cardiff. Thought to be an image of Miss Mary Jenkins, whose family owned Priston Manor in Somerset, the work joins only one other female portrait by Wilson in National Museum Wales’ collection. It offers insight into Wilson’s early career, when he first trained in London as a society portrait painter, before later becoming best known for his landscapes.

The acquisition has also enabled further research, which is currently trying to establish whether this may in fact be a marriage portrait, rather than one of a pair of siblings (Wilson also painted Jenkins’ sister, Elizabeth, in the same year). The woman’s hand clasps a sprig of white blossom, which may be choisya (orange blossom), sometimes used to symbolise an eternal bond.

“This striking and intriguing Portrait of a Lady is a strong example of Wilson’s early practice, and further enriches Amgueddfa Cymru’s collection of works by the artist,” said Andrew Renton, keeper of art at National Museum Wales. “This portrait not only strengthens the female presence in our 18th-century displays but it also enables us to undertake interesting further research—the identity of the sitter is speculative and we’d love to be sure who she really is!”

“Richard Wilson is of course one of Wales’ most celebrated landscape painters, but his portraits are particularly rare,” said Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund. “We’re very pleased to support this acquisition for Amgueddfa Cymru—National Museum Wales, a leading centre for his work in all its range and depth.”

The Getty Purchases Watteau’s La Surprise and 16 Master Drawings

Posted in museums by Editor on July 31, 2017

As reported by Jori Finkel in The New York Times (20 July 2017) . . .

The Getty Museum has made the biggest financial outlay for art in its history . . . . Judging from sales records for several of these artworks during weaker art-market periods, the Getty’s purchase price could have easily topped $100 million. The museum’s director, Timothy Potts, would not confirm the amount except to say that the deal was “the Getty’s biggest in terms of financial value. . . ”

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Paul Jeromack writes in The Art Newspaper (26 July 2017) . . .

According to sources in the field, the windfall comes from the collection of the 62-year-old collector Luca Padulli, the co-founder of the British investment management company Camomille Associates, who bought the works at auction over the last 17 years, through the British Old Master dealer, Jean-Luc Baroni. . .

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La Surprise was believed to have been destroyed until it re-emerged in 2007; it sold at Christie’s in 2008 for over $24million. Press release (20 July 2017) from The Getty:

Jean Antoine Watteau, La Surprise, ca. 1718; oil on panel, 36 × 28 cm (Los Angeles: The Getty Museum).

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today the most important acquisition in the history of the Museum’s Department of Drawings. Acquired as a group from a British private collection, the 16 drawings are by many of the greatest artists of western art history, including Michelangelo, Lorenzo di Credi, Andrea del Sarto, Parmigianino, Rubens, Barocci, Goya, Degas, and others. From the same collection, the Museum has acquired a celebrated painting by the great eighteenth-century French artist Jean Antoine Watteau.

“This acquisition is truly a transformative event in the history of the Getty Museum,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It brings into our collection many of the finest drawings of the Renaissance through 19th century that have come to market over the past 30 years, including a number of masterpieces that are among the most famous works on paper by these artists: Michelangelo’s Study of a Mourning Woman, Parmigianino’s Head of a Young Man, and Andrea del Sarto’s Study for the Head of St Joseph (the highlight of the Getty’s recent exhibition on that artist). It is very unlikely that there will ever be another opportunity to elevate so significantly our representation of these artists, and, more importantly, the status of the Getty collection overall.”

“Beyond the core of Renaissance through Rococo works, our modern holdings too are magnificently enhanced by one of Goya’s late, bizarre subjects, The Eagle Hunter, and Degas’s majestic pastel After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself).”

Potts added, “No less exciting for the Department of Paintings is the addition of one of Watteau’s most famous and canonical works, La Surprise. It was indeed a very welcome surprise when this lost masterpiece reappeared ten years ago in Britain. And one can see why: the act of seduction portrayed in the painting is matched only by the artist’s delicately flickering brushwork—the combination of titillating subject and charming rendition that made him the most esteemed painter of his day. It will be very much at home at the Getty, where it crowns our other exceptional eighteenth-century French paintings by Lancret, Chardin, Greuze, Fragonard, and Boucher.”

La Surprise is a fête galante, a popular genre depicting outdoor revelry that Watteau invented and which epitomizes the light-hearted spirit of French painting in the early eighteenth century. The scene features a young woman and man in passionate embrace seemingly oblivious to the musician seated next to them. He is Mezzetin, the trouble maker, a stock comic character from the commedia dell’arte. Throughout Watteau’s short but illustrious career—he died when he was only 27 years old—the characters of the commedia dell’arte figured prominently in his paintings, often mingling with elegant contemporary figures in a park or landscape.

Highly admired in the eighteenth century, the painting was thought lost and for centuries was known to art historians only from a 1731 engraving and a copy in the British Royal Collection. In 2007 it was found in an English private collection, becoming the most important work by Watteau to be rediscovered in recent times.

La Surprise exemplifies Watteau’s delightful pictorial inventions, brilliant brushwork, and refined, elegant compositions,” said Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. “It is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite and important Watteau paintings to become available in modern times. We are now able to present to the public a seminal genre of French eighteenth-century painting in a masterwork by its inventor. La Surprise will no doubt become one of our most beloved and recognizable paintings.”

The painting and all of the 16 drawings were purchased as a group from a British private collection. The drawings are mostly Italian but there are also exceptional works by British, Dutch, Flemish, French, and Spanish artists. A nucleus of Italian Renaissance works anchors the group, including a rare and beautiful ‘cartoon’ (full-sized direct transfer drawing for a painting) by Lorenzo di Credi; one of Andrea del Sarto’s finest drawings (from the collection of artist-writer Giorgio Vasari); and Michelangelo’s powerful pen and ink study of a mourning woman, a famous discovery made at Castle Howard, England in 2000.

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Punchinello Riding a Camel at the Head of a Caravan, late 1790s (Los Angeles: The Getty Museum).

Other highlights include Parmigianino’s ink drawing of the head of a young man; Savoldo’s Study for St Peter; Beccafumi’s Head of a Youth; and Sebastiano del Piombo’s Study for the Figure of Christ Carrying the Cross. From the post-Renaissance period, the collection features Barocci’s masterful Head Study of St Joseph; Rubens’s powerful oil-on-paper Study of an African Man Wearing a Turban; Cuyp’s panoramic View of Dordrecht, one of the great landscape drawings of the Dutch Golden Age; and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s Punchinello Riding a Camel at the Head of a Caravan, a brilliant example of the narrative mastery for which Tiepolo was admired.

Goya’s The Eagle Hunter, a darkly satirical brush and ink drawing depicts a hunter wearing a metal cooking pot for a helmet while precariously suspending himself over a cliff to try to snatch young eagles from a nest. Degas, arguably the greatest draftsman of the nineteenth century, is represented by two drawings, a sheet with two chalk studies of ballet dancers, used by the artist for no fewer than three paintings, and a large and startlingly bold pastel showing his unrivaled innovation in that medium.

“Any one of these sheets on its own is truly extraordinary and would be a worthy and meaningful acquisition for the Getty. Together, the 16 drawings form an unparalleled roll call of the ‘best of the best,’ with iconic sheets by some of the world’s most celebrated artists,” said Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings at the Getty Museum. “This powerful group of works represent the finest aspects of Western art history captured on paper. I am eagerly anticipating sharing these masterworks with our visitors as well as our international scholarly and museum community.”

While the majority of works are currently at the Getty Museum, some are still pending export licenses from the U.K. Research on further drawings from the same collection, with a view to possible acquisition, is currently underway. Plans are also proceeding to display the group together at the Getty Museum in a special installation in the near future.

The 16 Drawings
Study of a Mourning Woman, about 1500-05, by Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564)
Head of a Young Boy Crowned with Laurel, about 1500-05, by Lorenzo di Credi (Italian, c. 1457–1537)
Heads of Two Dominican Friars, about 1511, by Fra Bartolommeo (Italian, 1472–1517)
Study for the Head of Saint Joseph, about 1526–27, Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486–1530)
Study for the Figure of Christ Carrying the Cross, about 1513–14, by Sebastiano del Piombo (c. 1485–1547)
The Head of a Young Man, about 1539–40, by Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, 1503–1540)
Head of a Youth, about 1530, by Domenico Beccafumi (Italian, 1484–1551)
Study for Saint Peter, about 1533, by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (Italian, c. 1480–1540)
Head of Saint Joseph, about 1586, by Federico Barocci (Italian, c. 1535–1612)
Head of an African Man Wearing a Turban, about 1609–13, by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)
Panoramic View of Dordrecht and the River Maas, about 1645–52, by Aelbert Cuyp (Dutch, 1620–1692)
Punchinello Riding a Camel at the Head of a Caravan, late 1790s, by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Italian, 1727–1804)
The Eagle Hunter, about 1812–20, by Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828)
The Destruction of Pharaoh’s Host, 1836, by John Martin (British, 1789–1854)
Two Studies of Dancers, about 1873, by Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself), about 1886, by Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)

















Thomas Campbell Receives Getty/Rothschild Fellowship

Posted in fellowships, museums by Editor on July 31, 2017

Press release (27 July 2017) from The Getty:

The Getty and the Rothschild Foundation today announced Dr. Thomas P. Campbell as the second recipient of the Getty Rothschild Fellowship. The fellowship supports innovative scholarship in the history of art, collecting, and conservation, using the collection and resources of both institutions. It offers art historians, museum professionals, or conservators the opportunity to research and study at both the Getty in Los Angeles and Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England.

As the ninth director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 2009 to 2017, Campbell pursued a groundbreaking agenda that combined scholarship with accessibility. He reinforced the Museum’s excellence in its collections, exhibitions, publications and international engagement while reimagining the visitor experience both in the galleries and via an industry-leading digital presence. During his tenure, the museum increased its audience by 40%. His project for the Getty Rothschild fellowship will focus on the changing environment in which museums are operating and the ways art and cultural heritage can be used to promote mutual understanding.

The selection process for the Getty Rothschild fellowship considers a number of criteria, including whether the applicant’s work would benefit from proximity to the Getty and Rothschild collections. Fellowships are for up to eight months, with the time split equally between the Getty and Waddesdon Manor. Campbell will be at the Getty from November 2017 to February 2018 and at Waddesdon Manor from March to June 2018. Fellows also receive a stipend during their time at both locations. The fellowship is administered by the Getty Foundation.

Campbell says of his selection for the fellowship: “I am honored to be named a Getty/Rothschild fellow and to be given the opportunity to devote the coming year to examine, first, the fundamental question of where the cultural sector is heading as it responds to various geo-political, economic and digital challenges. And second, the related question of how we can use art and culture as a gateway to promote understanding in an ever-more connected but ever-more divided world.”

The inaugural recipient of the fellowship was Dr. David Saunders, a foremost expert in the area of conservation science who worked on museum and gallery lighting during the fellowship. In 2014, Lord Jacob Rothschild received the Getty Medal for his contributions to the practice, understanding, and support of the arts.

The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Acquires Paret’s ‘View of Bermeo’

Posted in museums by Editor on July 18, 2017

Luis Paret y Alcázar, View of Bermeo, 1783
(Bilbao: El Museo de Bellas Artes)

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The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum presents View of Bermeo of 1783 by Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746–1799), acquired from the heirs of José Luis Várez Fisa. The painting has been obtained with an interest-free loan thanks to the sponsorship of BBK, to be repaid over the following years with the contribution from the Friends of the Museum.

In addition to its undoubted artistic value, View of Bermeo of 1783 is of enormous historical interest given that it is considered the first work in a series of paintings depicting the ports of Cantabria and is the first view of the Basque Country painted by this artist from Madrid. Born in the same year as Goya, Paret led a storied life, resulting in his banishment, first to Puerto Rico and then to Bilbao, which prevented him from maintaining his prominent position at Court, a fact that to some extent favoured Goya’s professional success. At that point the Basque Country had almost no artistic tradition, for which reason the presence of a painter of Paret’s importance can be considered a remarkable artistic event and one that was decisive for its artistic and cultural evolution.

View of Bermeo is one of the most outstanding works of 18th-century Spanish painting and can be considered the first surviving modern and purely artistic image of a location in the Basque Country. This oil, which is in excellent condition despite its delicate copper support, perfectly combines a carefully devised composition and setting with an exquisite, detailed finish. Paret presented the scene as a social encounter in which he dignified local people and customs, offering an unprecedented visual record in the context of the Basque Country. The panel was painted in 1783 for the future Charles IV, son of Charles III and at that date Prince of Asturias, possibly with the aim of facilitating the end of Paret’s banishment which was imposed on him in 1775 due to his involvement in the dissolute life of the Infante don Luis, younger brother of Charles III. Paret’s imposed exile was finally repealed in 1785. The artist conceived the work as a pair to another view of Bermeo (present whereabouts unknown) in which he depicted the port during a squall.

The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum has thus increased its holdings of the work of Luis Paret y Alcázar, and its collection now includes View of El Arenal in Bilbao, 1783–84; Scene of Villagers (fragment), 1786; View of Fuenterrabía (fragment), 1786; The Triumph of Love over War, 1784; The Virgin with the Christ Child and Saint James the Greater, 1786; The Holy Shepherd, 1782; and the recently acquired View of Bermeo, 1783.

More information about the painting and the artist are available here»

Early Gainsborough Drawings Discovered at Windsor

Posted in museums by Editor on July 12, 2017

Rosie Razzall (left) and Lindsay Stainton (right) in the Print Room at Windsor Castle. Still from the BBC video describing the discovery (102 seconds), by video journalist Alex Stanger.

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As Rebecca Jones reports for the BBC (10 July 2017). . .

An album of drawings by 18th-century painter Thomas Gainsborough has been discovered in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. The drawings had been misattributed to another artist, Sir Edwin Landseer, since the reign of Queen Victoria. But after studying the 25 black-and-white chalk sketches, historian Lindsay Stainton confirmed they are actually early works by one of Britain’s most famous painters.

“It’s thrilling,” she told the BBC. “It’s the very best collection of Gainsborough’s early drawings in existence.” . . .

“We’re very much convinced that these are an important group of early drawings by Thomas Gainsborough,” agrees Rosie Razzall, curator of prints and drawings at the Royal Library. “It’s an extremely significant discovery. It means we are able to re-appraise the early work of Gainsborough.” . . .

The full article and video are available here»


Small Token from Carriera’s ‘Winter’ Recently Discovered

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on July 12, 2017

The Three Magi, print, 4.2 cm × 3.3 cm; this small print was sealed inside the frame of Rosalba Carriera’s Personification of Winter (ca. 1726), between the pastel’s wooden support and canvas liner (The Royal Collection Trust). 

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From the press release (9 May 2017) describing an extraordinary item discovered as a result of research for the Royal Collection Trust’s exhibition Canaletto and the Art of Venice, now on view at The Queen’s Gallery:

An 18th-century good-luck token has been found hidden inside Rosalba Carriera’s pastel A Personification of Winter by Royal Collection Trust’s conservators. One of the artist’s finest works, Winter was produced around 1726 for Joseph Smith, a British merchant, art collector, and dealer who lived in Venice and acted as agent to many artists, including Carriera and, most famously, Canaletto. Sealed inside the frame between the pastel’s wooden support and canvas liner, the token came to light during conservation of Winter for display in Royal Collection Trust’s exhibition Canaletto & the Art of Venice, which opened at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace on 19 May.

Just 4.2 cm × 3.3 cm in size, the token is in the form of a print of the three Magi and was clearly placed there by Carriera to protect the fragile pastel on its journey to its new owner. In the 18th century these tiny prints, known as santini (‘little saints’), were kept in prayer books or clothing as affordable and portable devotional objects. Rosalba Carriera, a very devout woman, is known to have been particularly fond of images of the three Magi, whose association with arduous journeys made them appropriate guardians for her works. Similar tokens have been found attached to other pastels by the artist.

In a letter to a friend in Florence on 3 December 1729, the Venetian nobleman Pier Caterino Zeno described Carriera’s devotion to the Magi: “Once she gave me a certain portrait to send to my brother in Vienna, and she gave me a little card of the three aforementioned adoring Magi; and said that to these she entrusted the safe outward journey of the portrait; adding that whenever such little images had accompanied her pictures, they had always arrived safely.”

Rosalba Giovanna Carriera, A Personification of Winter, ca. 1726, pastel on paper (London: Royal Collection Trust, 400647).

Rosalba Carriera was one of the most celebrated women artists of her day. Her pastels were highly admired by 18th-century European collectors, and prominent foreign visitors to Venice and Grand Tourists were eager to sit for portraits by her. The soft, velvety texture of pastel was particularly suited to Carriera’s sensual personifications such as Winter, portrayed as a young woman with a fur wrap slipping from her shoulders.

In 1762 the young monarch George III purchased virtually the entire collection of Joseph Smith, including Winter, which was among Smith’s most prized possessions. Thanks to this single acquisition, the Royal Collection contains one of the finest groups of 18th-century Venetian art in the world, including the largest collection of works by Canaletto. Winter hung in George III’s bedchamber at Buckingham House (later Buckingham Palace) alongside Carriera’s pastel of Summer.

Clara de la Peña McTigue, Royal Collection Trust’s Head of Paper Conservation, said, “The conservation of pastels is a very delicate operation, as the pigment surface of these works is so fragile. When we carefully removed the frame, we became very excited when we noticed a small piece of paper in the narrow space between the pastel’s support and the canvas, and suspected it might be one of Carriera’s tokens.”

Rosie Razzall, Royal Collection Trust’s Curator of Prints and Drawings and the exhibition’s co-curator, said, “It was only during conservation treatment that the print came to light. It’s incredible to think that it was put there by Carriera herself nearly 300 years ago to protect the work from ill fortune and has remained undiscovered until now.”






New Acquisition | View of Charleston, ca. 1774

Posted in museums by Editor on July 12, 2017

Engraved by Samuel Smith, after Thomas Leitch, A View of CHARLES-TOWN, in the Capital of SOUTH CAROLINA, published in London, 3 June 1776, hand-colored line engraving (Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund, 2017-287)

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Press release (11 July 2017) from Colonial Williamsburg:

A rare, historically important view of Charleston, South Carolina, showing its appearance at the time of the American Revolution was recently purchased by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for its collection. A View of CHARLES-TOWN, in the Capital of SOUTH CAROLINA, engraved in London by Samuel Smith after a painting by Thomas Leitch, depicts recognizable Charleston landmarks during its peak of prosperity prior to the outbreak of the war.

“Acquisition of this exceptional, pre-Revolutionary view perfectly addresses the Foundation’s core mission, particularly since it furthers our understanding of early America and its Southern colonies,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg. “I applaud our generous donors for making the purchase a reality.”

“Eighteenth-century views of American cities are relatively rare, and those of southern centers even more so,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation, and museums. “At nearly three feet in width and retaining its original water coloring, this outstanding view of one of the South’s great seaports is exceptionally rare and important.”

This print, in its full original color, was engraved in 1774 after Leitch painted his scene within a year of his arrival in Charleston from London in 1773 and arranged for it to be shipped back there to be engraved for printing. Although little is known about Leitch, an advertisement that he placed in the South Carolina Gazette soliciting subscribers to assist with the cost of producing the print, and noting that he was sending the painting ‘home’ to have it engraved, confirms he came from London.

The artist rendered his painting in the Dutch panoramic style that enhanced the expanse of the coastline by increasing its width in relation to its height, forcing the viewer’s eye to move back and forth across the canvas. The image is curious, however; while earlier versions of Charleston show calm seas and dozens of merchant ships in the harbor, in this one, Leitch included only one British trading ship in the harbor. Only about six months earlier, Massachusetts traveler Josiah Quincy noted of the Charleston harbor that “the number of shipping far surpassed all I had ever seen in Boston….”

As Colonial Williamsburg’s Deputy Chief Curator Margaret Pritchard speculates, “It is possible that the notable absence of trading vessels venturing into the choppy waters of the Cooper River, under stormy skies, was intended to suggest the political tension between Charlestonians and the Mother country.” In 1773, just months before Leitch painted his view, Britain passed the Tea Act, and Charleston’s outraged citizens left the British-imported tea on the docks to rot. It was the following year in which townspeople elected delegates to the Continental Congress.

Although the print was engraved in 1774, it was not issued until 1776. Other known copies are held at the Yale University Art Gallery, the New York Public Library, and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. The original painting is in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). The print was acquired through The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund, which restricts its funds for object purchases.








V&A Opens New Courtyard and Entrance

Posted in museums by Editor on July 1, 2017


The V&A’s Aston Webb screen from 1909, modified with five new openings on either side of the central arch, now connects the courtyard to Exhibition Road. Photograph: Hufton+Crow.

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Press release from the Victoria & Albert Museum:

The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter opened to the public on the evening of Friday 30 June 2017, creating a beautiful and unique new civic space for London and a world-class gallery space for the V&A’s internationally acclaimed exhibition programme. The project is designed by Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete and her practice, AL_A. The launch of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter marks the beginning of a new era for the Museum as it prepares to expand its UK and international presence. The project is the Museum’s largest architectural intervention in over 100 years and offers a 21st-century interpretation of the V&A’s founding principles: to make works of art and design available to all, to educate, and to inspire designers and manufacturers today and in the future.

The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter took six years to realise and transforms the V&A’s former boilerhouse yard on London’s great cultural artery, Exhibition Road. This new entrance connects the Museum with its neighbours, reinforcing the Albertopolis vision of intellectual ambition and innovation and creates a sequence of major new spaces:
• The Sainsbury Gallery: a flexible, 1,100sq m column-free exhibition gallery that provides the V&A with a purpose-built space for its world-leading programme of temporary exhibitions
• The Sackler Courtyard: the world’s first porcelain public courtyard, paved in 11,000 handmade tiles that were inspired by the rich tradition of ceramics at the V&A
• The Blavatnik Hall: a new entrance into the V&A from Exhibition Road, which transforms how visitors experience and discover the Museum and its collections
• The Aston Webb Screen: visitors will now enter the V&A from the street through the 11 openings of newly created colonnade formed from the 1909 Aston Webb Screen.

REVEAL, a free, week-long public festival (30 June–7 July) celebrates the opening of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter and offers a unique opportunity for the public to explore the Museum’s newly designed spaces before exhibition programming begins in the autumn. Art, performance, fashion, and family activities will bring the architecture and collections to life, reflecting on the V&A’s unique combination of heritage, modernity, and technology.

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A said: “This is a landmark moment in our history. The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter is both the Museum’s largest architectural intervention in over one hundred years and the start of a new chapter of expansion, returning to our original mission at the same time as opening up the V&A for the future. With its mix of ingenuity and imagination, the V&A has always been a meeting point for historicism and modernity. The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter bridges the two by offering fresh insights into our historic building with pioneering new architecture, creating London’s leading exhibition space.”

The Sackler Courtyard is the world’s first all-porcelain public courtyard and comprises over 11,000 handmade porcelain tiles, inspired by the rich tradition of ceramics at the V&A. This new public space for London also houses a café with furniture designed for the space by AL_A and manufactured by Moroso. The Sackler Courtyard reveals architecturally significant façades and details that have never previously been seen by the public. These include sgraffito decoration on the side of the Henry Cole Wing—a decorative Renaissance technique using multiple layers of coloured plaster created by the first art students at the Museum in the late 19th century. The stonework of the Aston Webb Screen retains the damage that World War II inflicted on the Museum, which is reflected in 11 sets of new metal gates, designed by AL_A. The gates have been manufactured with a pattern of perforations tracing the imprint of the shrapnel damage on the stonework as well as the Royal Crest in the central gate.

The Blavatnik Hall is a new space that will transform how visitors experience and discover the Museum and collections. Connecting the newly displayed Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art and the Dorothy and Michael Hintze Sculpture Galleries, The Blavatnik Hall gives views through to The John Madejski Garden, leads to a new shop, and connects to the historic Ceramic Staircase as well as the Sackler Centre for arts education, which reopens featuring the new John Lyon’s Charity Community Gallery.

The versatile, 1,100m sq column-free Sainsbury Gallery is one of the largest temporary exhibition galleries in the UK. This flexible exhibition space sits above a floor dedicated to art handling, conservation and preparation space. The new spaces reach as far as 18 metres below ground, directly beneath the Western Range of the V&A’s Grade I listed buildings: a daring engineering and construction challenge that is made visible to the public by steel columns and a beam painted in vivid international orange that are literally holding the weight of history and the Museum’s priceless collections above.

Amanda Levete said: “The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter is a reflection of the pioneering identity of the V&A and continues its mission of innovation into the twenty-first century. The Quarter reimagines the museum as an urban project, creating an exceptional place for London that will redefine the V&A’s relationship with the street and the public.”

Celebrating its 165th anniversary this summer, the V&A is the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance. The completion of this major project marks an exciting moment of evolution for the V&A, a year after winning the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016, and looking ahead to the opening of the V&A Gallery, Shekou as part of Design Society, in China this autumn and the V&A Museum of Design, Dundee next year.

The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter is the largest construction project undertaken by the V&A since its main buildings in South Kensington were completed in 1909. 22,500 cubic metres of earth were removed from the site and clay from the deepest excavations was carbon-dated to 50 million years old. At the height of construction, up to 60 truckloads of earth were removed from site per day, 99% of which was recycled. The new spaces have created more than 6,000sq m out of 2,200sq m of underused space. AL_A was commissioned to design the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter in 2011 following an international competition. Wates are the lead contractors delivering the project and Arup are the Structural and Building Services engineers.

Over £48 million has been raised for the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter thanks to the generosity of The Monument Trust, The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, The Headley Trust, The Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other donors including Peter Williams and Heather Acton and the Friends of the V&A.

The V&A’s new Sainsbury Gallery, a flexible, 1100sq m column-free gallery for temporary exhibitions. The inaugural exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics opens September 30. Photograph: Hufton+Crow.

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Writing in The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright provides a review of the new space along with context for the expansion, including description of the 1997 proposal by Daniel Liebeskind to build a tower (Spiral) on the site—an idea which, failing to secure funding, was abandoned in 2004. In Wainwright’s words, “Having been drawn, Icarus-like, to the shining promise of starchitecture, and had its wings thoroughly scorched, the V&A decided to opt for the more modest option of going underground.”



New Book | The Collector’s Cabinet and Miniature Pharmacy

Posted in books, museums by Editor on June 28, 2017

Collector’s Cabinet with Miniature Apothecary’s Shop, 1730
(Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum)

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Press release (23 June 2017) from the Rijksmuseum. The English edition of the book should be be available from Distributed Art Publishers (DAP) in August.

Paul van Duin, ed., The Collector’s Cabinet and Miniature Pharmacy / Verzamelaarskast met miniatuurapotheek (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2017), 184 pages, ISBN: 978 949171 4610 (Dutch edition) / ISBN: 978 949171 4726 (English edition), 40€ / $60. Essays by Reinier Baarsen, Annette Bierman, Judith van der Brugge-Mulder, Gerhard Cadée, Roelof van Gelder, and Dave van Gompel.

In the last few years no fewer than 50 experts have been involved in conducting research on the only eighteenth-century miniature apothecary’s shop in the Netherlands. The Rijksmuseum is now presenting the results of this research and conservation project in an extensive publication, designed by Irma Boom and showing the miniature pharmacy and 56 secret drawers for the first time, at almost actual size.

This rare collector’s cabinet houses an abundance of curiosities including a fully fitted miniature apothecary’s shop containing more than three hundred Delftware pots, glass bottles, tiny wooden drawers, paintings, and gilded ornaments. Concealed beside and behind the miniature pharmacy are no fewer than 56 secret drawers, all but five of which contain the collection of nearly 2000 varieties of naturalia, including seeds, flowers, roots, animal parts, rocks, minerals, and fossils.

The research has now been completed, providing a far deeper understanding of the cabinet’s origins, its purpose, the exceptional naturalia it contains, and the collectors’ world it inhabited. We can now be fairly certain that the cabinet was made in Amsterdam in 1730 for a wealthy doctor or apothecary, as a curiosity for the entertainment of a select group of friends and fellow collectors. The study also revealed that most of the naturalia items form the original contents of the cabinet. The naturalia even include uraninite and two other minerals containing uranium—for safety reasons, these materials are now safely stored in lead caskets in the Rijksmuseum’s depot, in accordance with the regulations and permit issued under the Dutch Nuclear Energy Act.

The conservation and restoration work have for a large part returned the cabinet and miniature apothecary’s shop to their former glory, and this object is now one of the highlights of the eighteenth-century galleries in the Rijksmuseum.

With thanks to the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden University, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research. The research, conservation, and publication were made possible by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project.