Enfilade

Rijksmuseum Acquires Floral Painting by Gerard van Spaendonck

Posted in museums by Editor on September 1, 2018

Press release (29 August 2018) from the Rijksmuseum:

Gerard van Spaendonck, Still Life of Flowers in Alabaster Vase, 1783, oil on canvas, 80 × 64 cm (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum).

The Rijksmuseum has procured a painting by Gerard van Spaendonck, the most famous painter of floral still lifes of the second half of the 18th century. It was a long-cherished wish of the museum to include in its collection an important work by this Dutch painter of international renown. The Rijksmuseum’s director Taco Dibbits describes this painting as “a radiantly beautiful acquisition.” The purchase of Still Life of Flowers in an Alabaster Vase from a gallery in Paris for €900,000 was made possible in part by participants in the BankGiro Lottery. The painting is now on display in Gallery 1.11.

Gerard van Spaendonck (1746–1822) was born in the southern Dutch city of Tilburg and settled in Paris in the 1760s. He gained fame not only as a painter of floral still lifes, but also as the illustrator of the French king’s botanical collection, a highly prestigious position. He was a leading and active figure in the Parisian art world and a teacher of countless French and foreign artists. Gerard van Spaendonck did not make a great number of paintings, instead devoting much of his time to his watercolours of plants, and to his students. He is nonetheless considered to be his era’s best painter of flowers.

Gerard van Spaendonck exhibited this floral still life at the Salon de 1783 in Paris, and it received great praise from critics, including compliments for his lifelike depictions of insects. The painting shows a bouquet of flowers in an alabaster vase standing atop a marble block on which children are depicted in relief. The painter’s studio window can be seen reflected in the polished surface of the vase. The flowers that feature in this painting include large white and smaller pink peonies, blue delphiniums, purple lilacs, and yellow and purple flamed tulips. Insects can be seen dotted about, and five green blackbird eggs lie in the nest on the right. Even the wicker basket seems almost real enough to touch.

Frick Acquires Vase by Luigi Valadier

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on August 8, 2018

Press release from The Frick:

Luigi Valadier (1726–1785), Vase, ca. 1770s, Rosso Appennino marble and gilt silver, approximately 9 × 6 × 4 inches (New York: The Frick Collection; photo by Michael Bodycomb).

Luigi Valadier was the preeminent silversmith in Rome during the second half of the eighteenth century. His work was admired by popes, royalty, and aristocrats throughout Europe. His oeuvre will be the subject of an upcoming monographic exhibition and publication at The Frick Collection, Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome (31 October 2018, through 20 January 2019). Inspired by this project—the second in a series of much-needed exhibitions to focus on decorative artists who deserve fresh scholarship—the museum has purchased a unique vase by the artist. The vase, believed to be a special commission, is the only known marble example attributed to Valadier that was executed with gilt-silver mounts, rather than his more typical gilt bronze. The marble used for the vase is also unusual, a rarely used blood-red variety identified as Rosso Appennino. The vase is currently on view in the museum’s Library gallery.

The design of the vase—an ovoid body on a square base, with lanceolate leaves at the bottom and two lion heads with rings in their jaws at the neck—appears in a number of Valadier drawings: two sheets in the Museo Napoleonico, Rome, and one in the Museo di Roma. They all illustrate marble or alabaster vases to be used for flowers or as candlesticks, with lion heads on their sides. Four vases in alabaster following this design were given by the Roman senator Abbondio Rezzonico to Cardinal Giuseppe Doria Pamphilj and are still preserved in the family palace in Rome. One of the drawings in the Museo Napoleonico shows measurements in Genoese palmi, suggesting that this specific design was made for the work done about 1779, at Palazzo Spinola in Genoa, by the French architect Charles de Wailly, who was collaborating with Valadier at the time.

Professor Alvar González-Palacios, the world’s expert on Valadier and the curator of the Frick’s upcoming exhibition, believes that the marble vase may have been carved by Francesco Antonio Franzoni (1734–1818), a sculptor known for producing precious objects, often in bizarre and uncommon materials. The precious materials used for this vase—Rosso Appennino marble and gilt silver—and the quality of the chasing of the metal suggest that it was a private commission for an important aristocrat. The top, unlike the lids of other vases of similar design by Valadier, is not detachable, indicating that the vase was ornamental rather than utilitarian. The finial also differs from the other vases depicted in the drawings by Valadier; whereas the other finials are pine cones, the finial of the Frick vase is an acorn. Professor González-Palacios suggests that this may have heraldic significance and allude to one of Rome’s most prominent aristocratic families, the Chigi, whose coat of arms included oak branches and acorns. Prince Sigismondo Chigi (1736–1793) was one of Valadier’s most important patrons in the 1770s and early 1780s.

Sometime after 1716, Valadier’s father, André, moved from Avignon, in the south of France, to Rome, where he established a silversmith workshop that became one of the best known in the city. Luigi inherited his father’s business in 1759, and his unsurpassed technical expertise combined with his aesthetic taste led to a successful career marked by the production of extraordinary objects in gold, silver, and bronze. Antique sculptures, cameos, architectural details, and ruins of Roman monuments served as the inspiration for his imaginative candelabra, tableware, church altars, and centerpieces. The financial state of the Valadier workshop, however, was often precarious, and it seems the artist suffered as a result of commissions that were never paid. He committed suicide in 1785, drowning himself in the Tiber, presumably because of the debts he had accumulated.

Comments Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, “An exceptional object by Valadier, this vase is an excellent example of the silversmith’s art and a superb object to represent him at The Frick Collection. We are thrilled to add it to our holdings, as it perfectly complements our works by Pierre Gouthière, Valadier’s contemporary in France. It provides a wonderful introduction to New Yorkers as a part of the forthcoming exhibition.”

Xavier Salomon Named Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia

Posted in museums by Editor on August 8, 2018

Press release (28 June 2018) from The Frick:

Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator of The Frick Collection has been named Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia for his contribution to the artistic heritage of Italy, his native country. In a private ceremony at the museum in late May, the honor was bestowed by the President of the Republic of Italy, and Salomon was invested by Armando Varricchio, Ambassador of Italy to the United States. The Ordine della Stella d’Italia was established in 2011, to reward individuals who have collaborated and solidified friendly relationships and cooperation between Italy and foreign countries. This award was reformed from the Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana, established after World War II to recognize individuals who were contributing to the reconstruction of Italy.

Salomon, an internationally renowned scholar of Paolo Veronese, was appointed by The Frick Collection in January 2014 as the museum’s Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator. In addition to overseeing the Frick’s curatorial activities, he has organized several exhibitions focusing on Italian and Spanish art. Salomon is the curator of the Frick’s current acclaimed exhibition Canova’s George Washingtonwhich explores the creation of Antonio Canova’s lost statue of George Washington, the only work he created for America. The exhibition features the artist’s full-size preparatory plaster model, executed in 1818, as well as other objects connected to its creation. Following its presentation at the Frick, the show will travel to the Gypsotheca e Museo Antonio Canova in Possagno, Italy, in the fall of 2018. The catalogue, written by Salomon; Mario Guderzo, Director of the Gypsotheca e Museo Antonio Canova; and Guido Beltramini, Director of the Palladio Museum, is a major addition to the current body of knowledge on Canova’s work, as well as on the classical revivalist sculpture of the early nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic. Salomon is also co-curating (with Professor Alvar González-Palacios) the Frick’s upcoming exhibition Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Romeopening in the fall of 2018. This show is the next in an ongoing series of monographic exhibitions presented by the Frick that focus on remarkable decorative arts artists. Accompanying the exhibition will be the first complete publication on the Roman silversmith. A related presentation of this exhibition will be shown in 2019 at the Galleria Borghese, Rome.

Other notable exhibitions at the Frick organized by Salomon include Murillo: The Self Portraits (2017), Veronese in Murano: Two Venetian Renaissance Masterpieces Restored (2017), Cagnacci’s Repentant Magdalene: An Italian Baroque Masterpiece from the Norton Simon Museum (2016), and El Greco at The Frick Collection (2014). In addition to contributing to and authoring several exhibition catalogues, Salomon has written on the museum’s rich holdings, including the recently published Holbein’s Sir Thomas More. Co-authored with the celebrated novelist Hilary Mantel, author of the best-selling Wolf Hall, Salomon and Mantel’s is the inaugural book of Frick Diptychs, a series of small-format books that focus on a single work from the museum’s permanent collection. Each book pairs an in-depth essay by a Frick curator with a contribution from a contemporary cultural figure.

Salomon has also been published in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Journal, Apollo, The Burlington Magazine, Master Drawings, The Medal, The Art Newspaper, and the Journal of the History of Collections. Additionally, he oversees the museum’s acquisitions program, and, under his purview, the Frick has added several objects to complement the collection, including its newest acquisition, a vase by the Italian silversmith Luigi Valadier, which will be included in this fall’s upcoming exhibition on the artist. He sits on the Consultative Committee and is a trustee of The Burlington Magazine and Save Venice, and is a member of the International Scientific Committee of Storia dell’Arte and Arte Veneta. He is an alumnus of the Center for Curatorial Leadership (2015).

In 2015, Salomon helped launch the Frick’s groundbreaking collaboration with the Ghetto Film School, a Bronx-based independent film organization that brings high school students from New York City into the museum for onsite instruction across two creative disciplines, the fine arts and the cinematic arts. The program culminates with the creation of a student-produced short film inspired by the Frick and filmed on location at the museum. The partnership was recently featured in an episode NYC-Arts on THIRTEENand in an episode of the documentary series Treasures of New York, which focused on The Frick Collection. This program is now heading into its fourth year.

Born in Rome and raised in Italy and the United Kingdom, Salomon received his Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art for his research on the patronage of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini. He began his professional career at the Frick in 2004, where he spent two years as the museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow. From 2011 to 2014 he was Curator in the Department of European Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and, prior to that, the Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. During his tenure at Dulwich, he co-organized, with Colin B. Bailey (then the Frick’s Chief Curator) Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery, which was presented by the Frick in 2010. As a Veronese scholar, he has organized several exhibitions on the artist, including the Frick’s acclaimed dossier show Veronese’s Allegories: Virtue, Love, and Exploration in Renaissance Venice (2006) and the monographic exhibition on the artist at the National Gallery, London (2014).

Comments Frick Director Ian Wardropper “We are thrilled that Xavier’s contributions have been recognized by the Italian government and he has been honored with the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia. His achievements at the Frick are many and include a number of remarkable exhibitions focusing on Italian artists. These exhibitions were the result of rigorous scholarship and created opportunities for engaging public programming and wonderful collaborations with Italian institutions.”

Getty Foundation Launches ‘Conserving Canvas’

Posted in museums by Editor on August 4, 2018

Left: Examination of François Boucher’s ​Vertumnus and Pomona (1757) ​in the conservation studio at the de Young Museum. Right: A detail of the back of the painting shows a seam in the lining canvas. Images from the Getty’s blog, The Iris.

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Press release (1 August 2018) from The Getty:

The Getty Foundation announced today the launch of Conserving Canvas, a new initiative that aims to ensure that critical conservation skills needed to care for paintings on canvas do not disappear. Conserving Canvas will keep much-needed skills alive through a number of grants that support the conservation of paintings, workshops, seminars, training residencies, and a major symposium. The initiative’s initial projects support the study and conservation of world-renowned works on canvas, including Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy (1770), Anthony van Dyck’s Equestrian Portrait of Charles I (1637–38), and François Boucher’s Vertumnus and Pomona (1757). The inaugural Conserving Canvas grantees include The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA; the National Gallery, London; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Statens Historiska Museer, Sweden; Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg, the Netherlands; University of Glasgow, Scotland; and Yale University.

“Through extensive consultation with specialists in the conservation field including experts at the Getty, we heard that there is a growing skills gap between senior conservators who learned treatments of paintings on canvas decades ago and newer museum conservators who need to address pressing problems for paintings in their own collections,” says Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “Conserving Canvas creates opportunities for international collaboration among conservation professionals, so that critical knowledge can be shared, discussed, and disseminated.”

Canvas supports became popular at the end of the 15th century, and have continued to be the primary material on which painters create their work. For centuries, it was common for restorers and conservators to protect these paintings by backing or lining them with another canvas to add general structural strength or repair rips and tears. As these linings age, some can create strains on the original canvas that cause the paint layer to separate and ‘cup’ away from the fabric support. In other instances bubbles can form, often significantly disfiguring the painted image.

Recent decades have seen the field embrace minimal intervention for paintings on canvas—altering an existing artwork as little as possible—as best practice, but this comes at a price. Today many paintings in museum collections around the world that were lined—and now have structural failures—are not being treated, largely because conservators feel insufficiently experienced with existing practices for safe intervention. While this loss of ‘bench skills’ is a concern for the field-at-large, it is particularly pressing for the care of paintings on canvas. There are thousands of old master paintings on fabric supports that were lined in the past, and these works are now beginning to need re-treatment. In addition, modern and contemporary paintings—especially larger works—tend to be more delicate due to the often experimental nature of artist’s materials and techniques. If the issue is not addressed, several generations of conservators are at risk of not being prepared to care for masterpieces on canvas in collections worldwide.

Conserving Canvas will foster inter-generational and inter-organizational sharing of information and best practices by creating opportunities where conservators can regain knowledge about past conservation techniques, work together to make decisions, and experience hands-on training. To this end, a major symposium that addresses the state of the field, the first such meeting since 1974, will be held at Yale University in October 2019.

“For years museum conservators have adopted a ‘wait and monitor’ approach to any major structural intervention on canvas paintings. But the danger is that once treatment can no longer be delayed, the experts with direct knowledge of lining and re-lining won’t be there to offer help,” says Antoine Wilmering, senior program officer at the Getty Foundation. “The field will benefit when conservators are aware of the full range of treatment options available for canvas paintings, whether that is lining or re-lining the canvas, removing a lining and its adhesives, tear mending or re-weaving losses in a canvas, or any other type of intervention. Conserving Canvas will provide international dialogue and opportunities to see these techniques in action so that professionals can advance their practice before it’s too late.”

More information about Conserving Canvas can be found here.

Grants Awarded

Thomas Gainsborough, The Blue Boy, 1770 (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens).

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino
Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy is the most famous painting in the Huntington’s collection, having been on display for nearly 100 years without interruption. Despite the best of care, conservation treatment is now necessary to address lifting and flaking paint, the separation of the canvas from its support lining, and the accrual of layers of varnish on the painting’s surface. A grant is allowing the Huntington to bring together highly respected experts in the conservation of 18th-century British canvas paintings in order to finalize the treatment plan for addressing the structural concerns. A cohort of conservators is gaining valuable experience by participating in the decision-making process and structural intervention of this highly significant and celebrated canvas painting. During the year-long conservation treatment, The Blue Boy is remaining largely on public view in order to educate vast audiences about the field of preservation. Grant awarded: $150,000 (2018).

The National Gallery, London
With Getty support, the National Gallery, London is undertaking a major conservation treatment of one of the most prominent canvas paintings in its collection, Anthony van Dyck’s Equestrian Portrait of Charles I (1637–38). Since its acquisition in 1885, the monumental work—which depicts the king as the divinely chosen ruler of Great Britain—has rarely been off view. While the painting is in relatively good condition, the present lining is failing, and the original canvas is too weak to hold the painting up by itself. Old tears are lifting at the edges, and a network of surface cracks (which indicate the painting has been rolled in the past) disrupt the image. Additionally, the picture surface is somewhat rippled in parts from earlier structural treatments. Led by National Gallery conservators, a complex conservation intervention will remove the current lining and apply a new one. Visiting conservators will receive training in the techniques and complex logistics of relining a large and fragile painting, an undertaking in which the National Gallery’s conservation department has particular expertise. A culminating workshop will share the project results with a larger group of 20–30 specialists in the field. Grant awarded: £70,800 (2018).

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
François Boucher’s Vertumnus and Pomona (1757) is one of the largest paintings in the European collection of the Legion of Honor, which together with the de Young museum compose the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. For many years, the painting was the focal point of a large gallery devoted to 18th-century French and Italian art; however, upon the gallery’s reinstallation in 2013, the painting was removed from display due to its appearance. The work had become increasingly compromised by canvas distortions, a failing lining, yellowed surface varnish, and discolored retouching. Led by senior conservators, the Getty grant-funded conservation treatment will create the opportunity for a group of visiting museum conservators to develop hands-on skills in lining and canvas repair, while also engaging in dialogue about surface aesthetics and treatment methodology. A related technical study will address long-standing questions about the painting’s early history. Grant awarded: $129,000 (2018).

Statens Historiska Museer, Stockholm
Sweden’s National Historical Museums is organizing a 13-day collections-based seminar for up to 16 conservators and curators to study canvas paintings at Skokloster Castle in Sweden. The seminar provides a hands-on introduction to the mechanical behavior of paintings on cloth supports, the deterioration of materials such as canvas and adhesives, and the aesthetic impact of different canvas conservation treatment methods. A workshop on tear mending is offering conservators the chance to learn a newer, less invasive repair technique, while case studies involving three 17th-century paintings from the collection—including Jacob Jordaens’s The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt—promote problem-solving skills. The Skokloster collection is especially well-suited for training exercises given its lack of climate control over the centuries; trainees can witness firsthand the effects of uncontrolled climate conditions on the collection’s lined and unlined paintings and discuss possible conservation treatments. Grant awarded: 1,130,000 kr (2018).

Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL), Maastricht
A Getty grant is supporting an advanced conservation workshop on mist lining, a minimally invasive technique developed to stabilize paintings on canvas. The practice, which was developed in the 1980s, involves the application of minimal amounts of adhesive, heat, and pressure to join a lining canvas to the reverse of the original painting. Since mist lining is still a relatively new technique and not yet a part of many conservators’ ‘toolkit’, the advanced workshop is especially timely for the field. The workshop will consist of a two-phase program. A group of selected practicing mid-career conservators will be invited to SRAL for a week-long workshop outlining the technique and its variables. Follow-up residencies of two weeks will allow the same conservators to put new skills and acquired knowledge into practice. These slightly longer, bench-skill workshops involve the actual treatment of paintings requiring lining. This format will ensure the promotion of in-depth learning about this particular conservation approach and promote a collaborative network able to further disseminate this technique. Grant awarded: €234,000 (2018).

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Lady Maynard, ca. c.1759–60 (Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow).

University of Glasgow
A Getty grant is bringing pairs of conservators-curators to the College of Arts and The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow for training workshops related to the conservation of five canvas paintings from The Hunterian and the National Galleries of Scotland, including Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Lady Maynard (c.1759–60). The workshops, which focus on the interdisciplinary involvement of both curators and conservators, are conceived around the principle that canvas conservation is part of a holistic process which interrelates all aspects of the condition, aesthetic, interpretation, and presentation of the painting. Participants will research the evolution of lining materials and techniques, and review how past structural treatments affect a painting’s appearance. They will also examine the visual presentation of paintings with different approaches to treatments with reference to the collections at The Hunterian, National Galleries of Scotland, Glasgow Museums, and Yale University. Afterwards they will complete individual month-long residencies in Scotland to treat the five selected paintings. Grant awarded: £115,000 (2018).

Yale University, New Haven
The Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University is organizing an international symposium on the conservation of canvas paintings to be held in October 2019 for conservators, conservation scientists, and curators. This will be the first major international gathering on the subject since 1974. The symposium will address historical approaches to the structural treatment of canvas paintings; current methods, materials, and research; and the challenges facing the structural conservation of modern and contemporary works. With today’s field embracing minimal-intervention techniques and maintaining differing opinions on the efficacy of more invasive approaches, the symposium will provide a long overdue forum to reevaluate historical and current practices as well as inform future directions for the conservation of canvas paintings. Grant awarded: $212,000 (2018).

AWA and Art Restoration in Florence

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on July 17, 2018
“The Lady Who Paints,” an 11-minute video produced by Bunker Films, addresses the work of Advancing Women Artists Foundation, focusing on the Virgin Mary Presents the Christ Child to Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi by Violante Siries Cerroti, located in the sacristy of the church of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi in Florence. Severely damaged in the 1966 flood, the painting was restored by Nicoletta Fontani and Elizabeth Wicks in 2016. More information is available in this book available from the AWA Foundation: I. Ciseri, J. Fortune, P. Masse, and E. Wicks, The Lady Who Paints: Violante Siriès Cerroti (1709–1783) (Pisa: Pacini Editore, 2016), 106 pages, ISBN: 978-8869951145 (English and Italian), €20.

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CAA’s listserv newsletter from yesterday noted this ArtNet News article:

Kate Brown, “How a Female-Led Art Restoration Movement in Florence Is Reshaping the Canon,” ArtNet News (12 July 2018).

Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to ask the right question.

That is exactly what Jane Fortune did on a visit to Florence 12 years ago. While touring the Renaissance city’s exquisite museums and fresco-covered churches, the American philanthropist began to wonder, “Where are the women?” Her search for an answer set Fortune on a passionate quest to restore the lost legacies and artworks of Florence’s forgotten female artists, digging into museums’ archives and dusty deposits with her organization, Advancing Women Artists (AWA). . .

Since the foundation launched more than 10 years ago, AWA has restored some 53 artworks. By September, that number will jump to 58. The nonprofit has become the go-to for Florentine curators who want to research their own collections, which house many works by women (AWA has inventoried 2,000 so far) that have been unseen for centuries. “That’s half the population that’s not being heard,” Fortune says. “I want to give them a voice.”

AWA has some ground rules for museums that engage them for help: If the work in question comes out of storage, it doesn’t go back into storage. It goes on the wall. And if a work needs to be restored, the vast majority of projects are carried out by female conservators.

Linda Falcone, the director of AWA, explains that the majority of restorers in Florence are in fact women, but that it was not always this way. The shift was caused by a devastating flood that struck in 1966, which led to the loss or damage of millions of artworks and books, including many masterpieces. A group of scholars, art students, and other art experts dubbed the “Mud Angels” flocked to the city to help with the restoration effort, as did the so-called “Flood Ladies”—female artists who donated art to replace lost masterworks.

Art historians like Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti, who came from Denmark, were eager to help. In turn, they established a female-led network of experts, many of whom are still active today. Piacenti went on to become the head of Florence’s Museum Stibbert until 2012, and she is among an impressive number of female curators who work in the city’s institutions.

“It was the first time women began wearing trousers in Florence,” Falcone says. “Women’s liberation in Florence is deeply linked to the art restoration effort.” . . .

The full article is available here»

Colonial Williamsburg Acquires Portrait by William Dering

Posted in museums by Editor on July 3, 2018

Press release (2 July 2018) from Colonial Williamsburg:

William Dering, Portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth (Mrs. Mordecai Booth), oil on canvas, ca. 1745 (Colonial Williamsburg, Gift of Julia Miles Brock, Edward Taliaferro Miles and Georginana Serpell Miles in memory of their mother, Alice Taliaferro Miles, 2018-165, A&B).

In the first half of the 18th century, William Dering was a well-connected dancing master and artist who lived and worked in Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, only six of Dering’s paintings are known to survive; four, including the artist’s only known signed and dated portrait, are in Colonial Williamsburg’s collection, the largest assemblage of his work. Now, through a generous gift from the sitter’s descendants, Joyce Armistead Booth (Mrs. Mordecai Booth), ca. 1745, a large-scale, oil on canvas, joins Dering’s other works at Colonial Williamsburg, including the well-known portrait of the subject’s son, George Booth. Until now, the painting of Mrs. Booth, which is in remarkable condition and survives in its original frame, has descended through the Booth family.

“Rare early works by local artists such as William Dering expand the depth and breadth of our collections and better enable us to share America’s enduring story,” said Mitchell Reiss, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are particularly grateful for gifts such as this since they allow us to teach history in a very human and personal way.”

“Executed in saturated, well-preserved reds, blues, and golds, and measuring more than four feet in height, this likeness of Joyce Armistead Booth is visually arresting,” said Ronald Hurst, the foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation and museums. “The portrait commands the viewer’s attention, and in so doing, provides a window into the goals and aspirations of early Virginia’s planter aristocracy.”

This Dering portrait is significant to ongoing research that Colonial Williamsburg’s experts are undertaking. Laura Barry, Juli Grainger curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture, and Shelley Svoboda, senior conservator of paintings, are at work on a comprehensive study of the artist and his work from both historical and technical perspectives. The portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth, especially due to its pristine condition, informs this research and will help the experts to better understand the nuances in Dering’s other canvases.

“This generous gift gives us an extraordinary opportunity to reunite two family portraits, more fully tell the story of this important Virginia artist and to better understand the context of William Dering’s body of work,” said Ms. Barry. Along with the additional works by this artist in the collection, including the portrait of Elizabeth Buckner Stith (an oil on canvas dating from 1745–49, the only signed and dated Dering example and for years was the only means by which to measure his work), Ms. Barry and Ms. Svoboda are able to study the individual qualities of each painting as well as to examine them together as a group.

Little is known about William Dering in his early years, but he arrived in Williamsburg from Philadelphia in 1737. He advertised in the Virginia Gazette that same year, the first of several occasions he did so, to announce the opening of a dancing school at the College of William and Mary. By 1744 his success enabled him to purchase two lots and move into the Thomas Everard House on Palace Green. The following year, Dering advertised twice to promote “an assembly at the Capitol… during the Court,” a ball held when the capital city was busy with visiting elected representatives from across the colony. During his time in Williamsburg, Dering also befriended William Byrd II, a Virginia planter and Renaissance man who owned one of the largest art collections in the American colonies. During his many visits to Byrd’s James River estate, Dering painted his daughter Anne Byrd Carter. (Her portrait is also in the Colonial Williamsburg collection.) The artist’s extravagant lifestyle led to debt, however, and he was twice forced to mortgage his property. Ultimately, Dering departed Williamsburg for Charleston, South Carolina, leaving his wife and son behind for a year to handle the public sale of his possessions. Little is known about Dering or his family after 1750.

The portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth is a gift from Julia Miles Brock, Edward Taliaferro Miles and Georginana Serpell Miles in memory of their mother, Alice Taliaferro Miles. It will be included in a future exhibition of the artist’s portraits to be held at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

“The painting of Joyce Armistead Booth, my five-times great-grandmother, has been a part of my life for all 74 years, but Miss Joyce (as we were taught to call her) is nearly 300 years old,” said Julia Miles Brock of Virginia. “My brother, sister, and I decided it was time she was in a museum with its attendant care, proper storage, and an appreciative audience.”

Nationalmuseum Sweden Acquires Per Krafft’s ‘Belisarius’

Posted in museums by Editor on June 21, 2018

Press release (19 June 2018) from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum:

Per Krafft the Younger, Belisarius, 1799, oil on canvas, 125 × 94 cm (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NM 7468).

Nationalmuseum has acquired a painting by Per Krafft the Younger (1777–1863) depicting the blind former general Belisarius. This painting ought to be regarded as one of the most prominent Swedish works executed in the French Neoclassical style.

In 1796, at the age of nineteen, Per Krafft the Younger was awarded a travel scholarship by the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, in part because Jonas Åkerström (1759–1795), who had used the scholarship to spend time in Rome, had suddenly died the year before at the early age of 36. Krafft went to Paris where as the only Swede he spent three years studying under Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825). David had a large number of pupils, and his teaching, which in those days was held at the Louvre, laid emphasis on painting and drawing technique, modelling, and nature studies in order to depict only the ideal subject matter: themes from antiquity.

David’s influence is evident in Krafft’s painting, which ought to be regarded as one of the most prominent Swedish works executed in the French Neoclassical style. It shows the strict lines of classical architecture in the background and a sculptural approach to the figure drawing. The palette is also a reminder of David’s work, with fine contrasts between their clothing—white and green and red—worn by Belisarius and the boy, their skin tone, and the shiny surface of the reflective metal on the belt and helmet. The figures almost stand out in relief against the light brown, yellow, and blue-grey tones of the background. The work was executed in 1799 and sent together with three other paintings—Phrygian Lyre Player Meditating, Paris, and Love—to Stockholm for exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1801.

The motif showing the successful Byzantine general Belisarius who was reduced to beggar status proved popular in the latter part of the 18th century as a result of the novel Bélisaire by Jean-François Marmontel (1723–1799), which was published in 1767. As a punishment for the general who was suspected of having conspired against him, the Byzantine emperor Justinian I is alleged to have put out Belisarius’s eyes, after which Belisarius was forced to beg by the gates of Rome. This choice of motif gave Krafft the opportunity to direct criticism in allegorical form at the tyrannical rulers of his day. Nor is it altogether surprising that Krafft’s teacher, the Republican David, had used the motif in a famous painting from 1781, now on display in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille. A further famous example was executed by another of David’s pupils, François-Pascal-Simon Gérard (1770–1837), now on display in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Krafft emphasises the pathos of his subject in the sober mood that permeates his work in general and in the detail in particular, such as the way the old soldier uses his helmet to collect the alms received. Per Krafft the Younger enjoyed a long life. He was appointed court painter and professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. During his career he was to become primarily a portrait painter.

Nationalmuseum receives no state funding for art acquisitions; rather, the collections benefit from donations and funding from private trusts and foundations. This acquisition has been made possible by a generous donation from the Hedda & N.D. Qvist Memorial Fund.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm to Reopen October 13

Posted in museums by Editor on June 21, 2018

From the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

The New Nationalmuseum at Blasieholmen opens again October 13, 2018. After five years closed, we wish you a warm welcome to a whole new museum experience. The renovation is finished, and we are currently working on the displays and exhibitions.

The renovation project has created a modern museum environment that is better for the art, the exhibitions, and for visitors. The New Nationalmuseum will be an open, visitor-friendly place where art can be experienced on both a large and a small scale—while preserving the integrity of the museum’s architectural heritage. The long-awaited climate control system will enable us to present the museum’s collections in an integrated way, crossing the boundaries between artistic disciplines. We will be able to exhibit paintings and other works that are more climate-sensitive, such as drawings and graphic art, alongside applied art and design. This will enhance the visitor experience by tying together multiple stories. It will also allow us to put more artworks on display.

Thanks to the relocation of behind-the-scenes activities such as administration and storage, the New Nationalmuseum will have more public space for exhibits and visitor amenities. By opening up both courtyards for use as multifunctional spaces, we can also improve the logistics of the main floor. The building will have multiple entrances and exits, as required by the fire code, which determines the maximum number of visitors that can be accommodated at any time—a number that is likely to increase.

Built in 1866, the Nationalmuseum building is over 150 years old. For decades, the building has been constantly repurposed and adapted to the museum’s changing and growing requirements. One layer of modifications has been piled on top of another. However, the building had never been thoroughly renovated and did not meet today’s accepted international standards in terms of safety, climate control, fire safety, working environment, and logistics. The renovations has brought the building up to modern operational and regulatory standards.

Technical innovations have made it possible to reinstate bricked-up windows to let in natural light. Specially developed technology will ensure that no artworks are damaged. A state-of-the-art climate control system will be installed, improving the environment for artworks, visitors, and staff. The public spaces will be expanded considerably, adding about 2300 square metres. Both courtyards, which currently house the auditorium and the restaurant, will be turned into public spaces housing visitor amenities and some exhibits. A new layout and security technology will enable us to keep the museum’s lower level open in the evenings independently of the rest of the building.

After Restoration Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne Back on View in DC

Posted in museums by Editor on June 17, 2018

Press release (25 May 2018) from the National Gallery in Washington:

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Bacchus and Ariadne, ca. 1743/1745, oil on canvas (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, Timken Collection).

Following a four-year-long conservation treatment, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne (ca. 1743/1745) returns to public view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, on 14 June 2018. The comprehensive restoration has revealed elements by the Venetian master hidden from view since the work was removed from its original location at the end of the 18th century. The dramatic results provide viewers with a new sense of the immense painting’s appearance at the time of its creation.

“The conservation of this remarkable work reveals significant discoveries about Tiepolo’s process and clues to the painting’s original home,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “This project also represents one of the many instances of rich collaboration between the Gallery’s team of conservators, scientists, and curators, all leaders in their field.”

Bacchus and Ariadne is believed to have been created to decorate the staircase of an unknown Venetian palace, only identified in a (now-lost) letter from 1764 by Tiepolo as the palace of “V.E.” The painting was probably one of four works—only three of which are known to survive—that each depicted a natural element. Bacchus and Ariadne represents earth, The Triumph of Amphitrite (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) represents water, and Juno and Luna (Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) represents air. The location of the fourth painting—which likely depicted Vulcan, the god of fire, and his wife, Venus—is unknown. A smaller example by Tiepolo of the same subject at the Philadelphia Museum of Art does, however, give a sense of what the painting may have looked like. All three of the extant paintings are connected by similar architectural motifs that would have tied them to their original locations, such as stone volutes at the top corners and long-necked, griffin-like forms in the bottom left and right corners. These architectural elements were likely painted over when the works were removed from their original setting, which according to curatorial records was done by 1798.

Treatment Details

The project’s painting conservator, Sarah Gowen Murray, worked closely with colleagues in painting conservation, scientific research, and preventive conservation to treat the painting and conduct analysis of the work. Overpaint removal uncovered tall vertical leaves on the left and right sides of the composition. Infrared imaging—conducted by John Delaney, senior imaging scientist—and analysis of cross-section samples of those areas—examined and interpreted by Barbara Berrie, head of the scientific research department—indicated that the leaves were originally bound together by gold ribbons. A precedent for the ribbons was established in another work by Tiepolo, Castigo dei Serpenti (The Scourge of the Snakes) (1732–1735) at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. These findings, archived documentation images, and other works by the artist were then consulted to reconstruct the missing elements with inpainting.

Other discoveries made during the treatment include indications of significant compositional changes made by Tiepolo, suggesting that Bacchus and Ariadne may have been the first painting of the series. X-radiographs exposed curved forms at the lower-right corner extending beneath the griffin and the jaguar—perhaps initial attempts by the artist to incorporate the composition into the work’s surrounding architecture.

Bacchus and Ariadne

Tiepolo’s painting magnificently depicts the moment before Bacchus, the god of wine, crowns Ariadne after falling in love with her. According to the myth, Bacchus discovered Ariadne on the shore of the island of Naxos where she was left behind by her lover, Theseus. Following this scene, Ariadne ascended to Mount Olympus, gaining immortality. Tiepolo’s rendering of the myth shows Bacchus sitting unsteadily atop a barrel with the glittering crown in hand. Bacchus is surrounded by revelers holding jugs of wine and grapevines, representing the fecundity of earth, while one of the jaguars that led his chariot rests beneath him. The wheat Ariadne wears in her hair and reeds held in her hand further symbolize the earth.

Following its removal from its original setting, Bacchus and Ariadne remained in private collections in Italy and Vienna before being sold in the late 1920s to William Robert Timken and Lillian Guyer Timken. The painting came to the Gallery in 1960 as part of the Timken Collection. Oliver Tostmann, now curator of European paintings at Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, contributed significantly to the understanding of Baccchus and Ariadne and its counterparts when he was a Joseph McCrindle Fellow and then Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the National Gallery from 2007 to 2011.

New Exhibitions at Monticello Include Life of Sally Hemings

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on June 17, 2018

Sarah Stockman reports on the Sally Hemings exhibition for The New York Times (16 June 2018), and the Monticello website now provides extensive information on Hemings. From the press release (7 June 2018) from Monticello:

On June 16, in conjunction with national Juneteenth events, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will welcome a gathering of descendants of enslaved families, commemorate 25 years of its Getting Word Oral History Project, and unveil new exhibits and restored spaces, including a groundbreaking exhibit on Sally Hemings.

The opening marks the conclusion of a five-year restoration initiative, known as The Mountaintop Project. Initiated by a transformational gift from David M. Rubenstein in 2013, the project has made possible a total of nearly 30 new restored or recreated spaces and exhibits. Iconic rooms, on every level of the house, received updated interpretation or were restored for the first time. On Mulberry Row, buildings were physically and virtually restored or reconstructed. Together, these spaces illuminate the stories of individuals and families, and reveal how the lives of the free and enslaved were interwoven.

“In Jefferson’s words, we ‘follow truth wherever it may lead,’” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “This transformation of Monticello—made possible by decades of research, hundreds of descendants, and thousands of donors—brings forward a more honest, relevant, and inclusive view of our history.”

On June 16, six new exhibits and restored spaces will open for the first time, including:
The Life of Sally Hemings — an immersive digital exhibit, anchored in the South Wing where she once lived, that relies on the words of her son, Madison, to explore her life and legacy;
The Getting Word Oral History Project — an exhibit on the enslaved families of Monticello and their descendants;
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson — an exhibit which provides fresh insights into the life of Jefferson’s wife, located in the first building erected at Monticello;
The Granger-Hemings Kitchen — an exhibit on Monticello’s first kitchen and new archaeological discoveries that reveal the stories of enslaved cooks, Ursula Granger, James Hemings, and Peter Hemings;
The Dairy — a restored, period room where enslaved workers made cream, butter and soft cheese for the household; and
The Textile Workshop — a restored ca. 1775 structure featuring an exhibit about Mulberry Row and a room depicting the factory where enslaved women and children turned cotton, hemp, and wool into cloth for enslaved people and enterprise.

For years, visitors have learned about Sally Hemings on tours of Monticello. Now, for the first time, her story will have a dedicated physical space on the mountaintop.

“It represents a different chapter in public history at Monticello,” said Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and professor of history at Harvard University. “It will have a ripple effect on the way people think about slavery on the mountain overall and that’s actually very exciting.”

To commemorate the occasion and celebrate 25 years of the Getting Word Oral History Project, Monticello is hosting a free public event and a gathering for descendants of enslaved families. The gathering is expected to be the largest reunion of descendants of enslaved families in modern history.

The Look Closer opening event will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham, violinist Karen Briggs, patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, national policy analyst Melody Barnes, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see a rare version of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln and generously loaned by David M. Rubenstein. It will be on view in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center from June 11 through July 11, 2018.