The Snite Receives Long-Term Loans of Spanish Colonial Art

Posted in museums by Editor on November 7, 2021

From the press release (26 October 2021) . . .

Unidentified artist, Virgin of the Immaculate Conception with Saints, Angels, and Indigenous Donor, 18th century, oil and gold on canvas (Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation; photo by Jamie Stukenberg).

The Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame installed recent loans from the internationally renowned Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation. Three paintings dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, drawn from the Foundation’s extraordinary holdings, complement the Museum’s existing collection of Spanish Colonial works to expand our understanding of the period.

This new loan follows an earlier one from the Thoma Foundation of thirteen works that were shown in the 2020 exhibition Divine Illusions: Statue Paintings from Spanish Colonial Peru, organized by Professor Michael Schreffler of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History & Design. In 2023 When the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art debuts in 2023, the University will receive five different works from the Foundation to replace the three currently exhibited. Those loans are slated to extend through 2026.

“The Thoma family have become very good, trusted friends of the Museum. It is an honor to host masterpieces from their extensive collection that can be appreciated, studied, and nourish us all,” said Joseph Antenucci Becherer, director of the Snite Museum of Art.

“The paintings on loan from the Thoma Art Foundation are windows into a fascinating world of social interaction and Christian devotion in Spanish Colonial South America. Our students and all visitors to the Snite will benefit from the unique opportunity to study and reflect on these visually compelling works of religious art” notes Michael Schreffler, Professor of Art History at the University of Notre Dame.

Most paintings from colonial South America are unsigned. However, a few artists did sign their works, enabling experts to attribute unsigned works to their hands. One such known artist is Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (1638–1711), whose oeuvre is considerable. His Allegory of the Eucharist, which was probably based on an engraving, portrays the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation in which the bread and wine of the Eucharist is transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

Cipriano de Toledo y Gutiérrez, Our Lady of Mercy with Saints, 1764, oil and gold on canvas (Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation; photo by Jamie Stukenberg).

This painting of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (depicted above) follows the traditional iconography of the central figure by showing the Virgin clothed in a white tunic covered by a blue mantle. Satan, as a serpent with a human face, lies vanquished on the ground. At the top of the canvas are the four Evangelists—Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—shown holding ribbons inscribed with four of the symbols of the Virgin’s immaculacy: the Tower of David, the Temple of Solomon, the City of God, and the Spotless Mirror. She is accompanied by a variety of saints. At lower right is a portrait of the donor, an indigenous woman who must have been a member of an important clan.

In 1997, the Thoma Foundation acquired a version of this subject, Our Lady of Mercy with Saints, that was dated 1771, but bore no signature. More recently, another version of the subject from 1764 was acquired by the Foundation. That painting, like yet another painting in a French private collection, is signed by Cipriano de Toledo y Gutiérrez. The existence of the three nearly identical paintings—with others possibly extant—tell us a great deal about the workshop practices of Cuzco painters. Although much has been written about works created for the art market, two of these three works were clearly commissioned by devotees of Our Lady of Mercy and the Mercedarian order. This multifigured composition may well have been based on an engraving.

New Book | The Best Address in Town: Henrietta Street

Posted in books, museums by Editor on November 1, 2021

From Four Courts Press:

Melanie Hayes, The Best Address in Town: Henrietta Street, Dublin and Its First Residents, 1720–80 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2021), 312 pages, ISBN: 978-1846828478, €30 / $40.

Once Dublin’s most exclusive residential street, Henrietta Street was, throughout the eighteenth century, home to the country’s foremost figures from church, military, and state. Here, in this elegant setting on the north side of the city, peers rubbed shoulders with property tycoons, clerics consorted with social climbers, and celebrated military men mixed with the leading lights of the capital’s beau monde, establishing one the principle arenas of elite power in Georgian Ireland. Looking behind the red-brick facades of the once-grand Georgian town houses, this richly illustrated volume—commissioned by Dublin City Council Heritage Office in conjunction with the 14 Henrietta Street museum—focuses on the people who originally populated these spaces, delineating the rich social and architectural history of Henrietta Street during the first fifty years of its existence. By weaving the fascinating and often colourful histories of the original residents around the framework of the buildings, in repopulating the houses with their original occupants, and by offering a window into the lives carried on within, this book presents a captivating portrait of Dublin’s premier Georgian street, when it was the best address in town.

Melanie Hayes is an architectural historian, specialising in Ireland’s eighteenth-century architectural and social history. She was an academic researcher during the development of the 14 Henrietta Street museum by Dublin City Council, and continues to be involved with the museum. Melanie currently works as a research fellow on an Irish Research Council laureate project, CRAFTVALUE, at Trinity College Dublin, exploring a new skills-based perspective on the architecture of Britain and Ireland from 1680 to 1780.

Frick Announces Its Most Significant Gift of Drawings and Pastels

Posted in museums by Editor on September 5, 2021

Press release (30 August 2021) from The Frick:

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Head of a Woman, 1784, pastel on paper, 12 x 10 inches (New York: Frick Collection, promised gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard; photo by Joseph Coscia Jr.).

The Frick Collection announces the largest and most significant gift of drawings and pastels in its history, thanks to the generosity of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ and Jean-Marie Eveillard. Over the past forty-five years, the Eveillards have assembled an outstanding collection of European works on paper, ranging in date from the end of the fifteenth century to the twentieth century and representing artists working in France, Britain, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. The Eveillards have made a promised gift to the Frick of twenty-six of these works—eighteen drawings, five pastels, two prints, and one oil sketch—among them some of their finest acquisitions. Along with preparatory figurative sketches and independent studies and portraits are two vivid landscape scenes. Fittingly for the Frick, artists represented include François Boucher, Edgar Degas, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Thomas Lawrence, and Jean-François Millet. The group also introduces to the Frick’s holdings works by artists not yet represented in its primary collecting areas, including Gustave Caillebotte, Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Jan Lievens, John Singer Sargent, and Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun. In the fall of 2022, at its temporary Frick Madison location, the museum will present an exhibition of these extraordinary works, to be accompanied by a catalogue and public programs.

François Boucher, Reclining Shepherdess (La bergère au Coeur), ca. 1753; black, red, and white chalk and blue, light blue, red, pink, and yellow pastel with touches of grey watercolor washes and possibly some traces of graphite on paper; 16 × 19 inches (New York: Frick Collection, promised gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard; Photo by Joseph Coscia Jr.).

Comments Xavier F. Salomon, the Frick’s Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, “It has been a pleasure studying and selecting from this remarkable collection of two longtime supporters of the Frick, assembled just as our own holdings have been, according to criteria of beauty, quality, and condition. Each of the twenty-six works either appreciably deepens our holdings of a familiar artist or brings to us the work of one who is not—but should be—represented within our core areas of European Old Master art. In adding five pastels and an oil sketch, the gift also strengthens our examples of these media. We very much look forward to sharing these works with the public next year.” Betty and Jean-Marie Eveillard have been deeply involved with the Frick for many years, both having served as Trustees. Betty is currently the Board’s Chair.

The Eveillards acquired their first important work in 1975, John Singer Sargent’s Virginie Amélie Avegno, Mme. Gautreau (Mme. X), and have been active collectors ever since. This drawing is the most modern work in the promised gift to the Frick and is a particularly satisfying addition to the museum’s holdings: It is known from archival correspondence that Henry Clay Frick desired a portrait by Sargent but did not succeed in securing a sitting with the artist. Dated to about 1884, Sargent’s Mme. Gautreau is one of some dozen studies produced for the famous painted portrait Madame X, a highlight of the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This sheet shows the artist working out the figure’s pose, representing her lithe figure kneeling on a sofa and looking out a window. Sargent was captivated by Gautreau and strived in studies like this and in the final painting to capture her “unpaintable beauty and hopeless laziness.”

Other later nineteenth-century drawings coming to the Frick are by Degas and Caillebotte, selected to complement the collection’s Impressionist paintings. While the institution owns a quintessential Degas canvas of dancers, the Eveillards’ early drawing of Adelchi Morbilli, created in Naples in 1857, will be the first work on paper by the artist in the Frick’s collection. It is one of—and arguably the best of—his series of drawings of his cousin. When it was drawn, Degas was particularly interested in the work of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and the portrait reflects this affinity. Gustave Caillebotte is best known and perhaps most celebrated for his 1877 painting at Chicago’s Art Institute, Paris Street, Rainy Day. A man of wealth, Caillebotte was also a patron and supporter of fellow Impressionist colleagues. His works only rarely appear on the market, most still being in the possession of his descendants. The promised gift includes a preparatory drawing for the iconic Paris street scene.

François Boucher, Reclining Shepherdess (La bergère au Coeur), ca. 1753; black, red, and white chalk and blue, light blue, red, pink, and yellow pastel with touches of grey watercolor washes and possibly some traces of graphite on paper; 16 × 19 inches (New York: Frick Collection, promised gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard; photo by Joseph Coscia Jr.).

Eighteenth-century French art is one of the Frick’s strengths, with holdings by Boucher, Fragonard, Greuze, and Watteau. The gift brings to the museum works in chalk and pastel on paper by these four artists, media in which none of them is currently represented. Among these is a pastel drawing lauded by the influential writers Edmond and Jules Goncourt as one of the most beautiful by Boucher. The image of a reclining woman is associated with a pastoral painting now at the Louvre. Young Woman (La Coquette) by Fragonard is one of a series of spectacular drawings of female models standing outdoors. These were made in the early 1770s, contemporaneous with his creation of the four original canvases of The Progress of Love that today are a highlight of the Frick. The most renowned—and arguably the best—pastelist in eighteenth-century France was the eccentric Maurice Quentin de La Tour. The Eveillards have the finest pastel by him in private hands in the United States, the portrait of Madame Rouillé. It too comes to the Frick along with a sheet by De La Tour’s near contemporary Nicolas Lancret, neither of whom is currently represented at the museum in any medium. Widely traveled and celebrated during her life, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was a highly accomplished portraitist and writer. Her work also enters the collection with Head of a Woman, a sketch signed and dated 1784 and likely made in preparation for a history painting that was never executed. The scope of the institution’s French works is broadened further with sheets by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon and Jean-Baptiste Wicar.

Painter Eugène Delacroix was among those artists to herald French Romanticism. In 2010, former Frick Director Charles Ryskamp left to the Frick the artist’s Moroccan Interior, a delicate and personal drawing from one of the sketchbooks Delacroix made in 1832 during a visit to North Africa. The Eveillard gift includes a pastel by the artist depicting two North African figures in a landscape, based on sketches made two decades later. Of the twenty known Delacroix pastels of such subjects, only a dozen can be located today; the Eveillard sheet is the only one in private hands, making this acquisition a particularly rare occurrence.

The Frick is also celebrated for Spanish art, including five works by Goya: four paintings and one drawing, The Anglers. The Eveillards’ Tambourine Player will deepen the institution’s holdings by the artist. This depiction of a dancing Spanish man comes from the same album as the aforementioned drawing and likewise exemplifies the artist’s use of everyday people as subjects, as is also the case with the Frick’s large Goya painting of laborers, The Forge.

Other works in the gift enrich the Frick’s celebrated collection of Italian works, with sheets ranging from a rare anonymous fifteenth-century Venetian drawing to Italian Renaissance and Baroque sheets by Federico Barocci, Guido Reni, and Salvator Rosa and eighteenth-century works by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. The group includes two remarkable portraits by Jan Lievens, the Dutch contemporary of Rembrandt, and by Sir Thomas Lawrence, the leading British portraitist of his age. As a young collector, Henry Clay Frick was particularly interested in the Barbizon school, and a drawing by Jean-François Millet, one of the movement’s founding members, will also enter the collection through this generous gift. The landscape joins a genre scene by Millet already in the collection. Crowning this remarkable group of works is an oil sketch by John Constable, made in preparation for the last of the artist’s famous series of ‘six-footer’ paintings, of which The White Horse at the Frick was the first.

Sweden Nationalmuseum Acquires Louis Masreliez’s Allegory of War

Posted in museums by Editor on August 31, 2021

Louis Masreliez, An Allegory of War, ca.1790–92, oil on canvas, 93 × 132 cm
(Stockholm: Nationalmuseum)

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The American war in Afghanistan ends after two decades. This painting sold at Christie’s New York in April of this year (Sale 19739, Lot 63). From the Nationalmuseum press release (26 August 2021) . . .

Nationalmuseum has acquired An Allegory of War, a painting by Louis Masreliez originally intended to be one of two overdoor pieces for King Gustav III’s bedchamber in the royal palace in Stockholm. The work is of major significance, marking a transition in the artist’s oeuvre from epic historical scenes to more decorative works.

As one of the leading painters and interior designers of the Gustavian period, Louis Masreliez (1748–1810) was equal to the task. Born in Paris, he arrived in Stockholm at the age of five when his father, the ornamental sculptor Adrien Masreliez, was hired to work on the new palace. Young Louis soon proved to be something of an artistic child prodigy. He received the best possible education, which culminated in 1769 in a travel scholarship. Via Paris he travelled to Rome, where he studied for the next 12 years. In this cosmopolitan environment Masreliez mixed with the leading artists of the time, found his niche in the emerging neoclassical style, and drew many studies of Classical and Renaissance motifs to serve as reference material.

On returning to Stockholm in 1782, Masreliez was well equipped to oversee the redecoration of Gustav III’s private apartment at the palace in keeping with contemporary neoclassical interior design trends. Neoclassicism blended the grotesque decorative style of the Renaissance with features inspired by ancient Rome. The best-known example in Sweden today is the interior decoration of Gustav III’s pavilion at Haga. Meanwhile, Masreliez also had a solid grounding in historical painting, the task he was originally destined for in the service of the crown. Here too, he combined various influences from the great masters, all packaged in an elegant neoclassical form. This can be clearly seen in An Allegory of War.

It is conceivable that Gustav III himself chose the subject matter for the two overdoor paintings in his bedchamber. The king was heavily involved and had his own ideas regarding the interior decoration of royal properties, as contemporary sources attest. An Allegory of War and its counterpart, An Allegory of Peace, would promote the image of the king as defender of the realm and ultimate guarantor of peace. The topic was highly relevant, as the works were created in the immediate aftermath of Sweden’s 1788–90 war against Russia. An Allegory of War depicts Minerva alighting from her horse-drawn chariot, holding a shield in one hand and the lightning bolt of Zeus in the other. Above her hovers Boreas, god of the north wind, accompanied by winged zephyrs with snowflakes emanating from their mouths. It is both a dramatic composition and an unusually powerful painting with its grand, sweeping lines. The somewhat explosive colour palette, dominated by earth tones and martial red, reinforces the subject matter.

From an inscription on a preliminary sketch by Masreliez, we know that this image represented the Swedish victory at the battle of Narva in 1700, an event to which Gustav III frequently alluded, since it had secured Sweden’s position as a great power for some years. If Karl XII was explicitly presented here as the warrior king, then Gustav III would implicitly be the prince of peace in the counterpart image. A preliminary study in oils for An Allegory of Peace has been in Nationalmuseum’s collection since 1917. It is believed the ensemble was never completed following the king’s death in 1792, and instead the artist retained ownership of the works.

Nationalmuseum receives no state funds with which to acquire design, applied art and artwork; instead the collections are enriched through donations and gifts from private foundations and trusts. Thanks to a generous donation from the Friends of Nationalmuseum, the museum has been able to repatriate the magnificent Masreliez work to Sweden.

NEH Announces $28.4 Million for 239 Projects

Posted in museums, resources by Editor on August 20, 2021

Selections from the press release (17 August 2021):

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced $28.4 million in grants for 239 humanities projects across the country. . . .This round of funding will support vital research, education, preservation, digital, and public programs. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $53.2 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils. . . .

Several projects receiving grants today will help preserve fragile historical and cultural collections and make them more accessible to the broader public, such as grants to safeguard the Providence Atheneum’s collection of rare books, pamphlets, and artwork—which includes rare first editions of works by Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, and Herman Melville, nineteenth-century antislavery and temperance pamphlets, and a 25-volume reference work on Egypt commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte.

A grant to the Oneida Indian Nation will help preserve tribal archives containing textiles, artifacts, and historical records documenting the Nation’s history, including the personal papers of Chief William Rockwell, who played a pivotal role in a U.S. Supreme Court case preserving the Oneida Reservation, and the pipe of Chief Skenondoa, an American Revolutionary War hero involved in the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty recognizing Oneida sovereignty and land rights.

NEH Preservation Assistance Grants will improve preservation conditions for valuable humanities collections at seventy-one smaller museums, archives, and historical societies across the country. . . .

Forty institutions received grants to support professional development and research opportunities for K–12 and college teachers through summer workshops and institutes on humanities topics such as: the social and cultural history of the space race on Florida’s ‘Space Coast’; the role of books in circulating the ideals of the American Revolution; the twelfth-century migration of Pueblo communities from Chaco Canyon, the hub of Puebloan civilization in northwestern New Mexico, to the Mesa Verde region of southwestern Colorado; the overlooked histories of ten influential African-American women who helped define American ideals from the Revolutionary Era to the early twentieth century; and accounts of the 1918 influenza pandemic in history and literature.

This round of funding also marks the addition of the Boston Public Library as a hub for the National Digital Newspaper project, expanding the reach of the Chronicling America online database of historical American newspapers to include newspapers published in Massachusetts between 1690 and 1963. Additional funding awarded in this round will support ongoing newspaper digitization work in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

A number of newly funded projects received grant support through NEH’s A More Perfect Union initiative, designed to demonstrate and enhance the critical role the humanities play in our nation and support projects that will help Americans commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. Among these are grants to fund new episodes of the PBS series Poetry in America, a collection of essays on the architecture of the African diaspora in the United States, and preservation planning for the Digital Library of Appalachia.

A full list of the 239 grants by geographic location is available here (these particularly caught my eye -CH) . . .

The Revolution in Books (Adrian Finucane and Victoria Thur), $141,929
A three-week, residential institute for 25 college and university faculty on the history of the book in the American Revolution.

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Bringing Old North to the 21st Century (Nikki Stewart), $75,000
A planning grant to reinterpret the colonial Old North Church in Boston and its congregation’s ties to slavery from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

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Preserving Works on Paper at Historic Deerfield (Amanda Lange), $10,000
Conservation assessment of 350 works of art on paper, including eighteenth-century British portraits, silhouettes, political prints, military and other maps, and other pieces that represent New England life and tastes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The project would also include a workshop on object handling and storage best practices that would be open to staff and volunteers of other local museums and historical societies, as well as the development of a rotation schedule for the light-sensitive pieces in the collection.

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Recovering Black Performance in Early Modern Iberia, 1500–1800 (Nicholas Jones and Elizabeth Wright), $96,347
Planning and holding a conference on Black performance in early modern Iberia and preparation of conference papers for publication in a journal special issue.

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Rehousing and Cataloging the RISD Museum’s Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Wallpaper Collection (Ingrid Neuman), $10,000
The rehousing of approximately 700 historical European and American wallpapers from the late eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth, 500 of which were collected by French artist Charles Huard and his wife, American writer Frances Wilson Huard. The collection includes examples from manufacturers Zuber, Joseph Dufour, and Jean-Baptiste Réveillon that are representations of highly skilled and time-intensive production techniques, including the use of hand-drawn and hand-carved woodblocks for printing.

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Collections Monitoring and Housing Improvement Project at the Old Stone House Museum (Mahala Nyberg), $9,300
Purchases to improve preservation conditions and environmental monitoring at the Old Stone House Museum and Historic Village. The museum, on Vermont’s African-American Heritage Trail, includes buildings significant to the history of Orleans County from the mid eighteenth century through the nineteenth, including the home of Alexander Twilight, an African-American educator and minister and first African American to graduate college in the United States.

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First Family: George Washington’s Heirs and the Making of America (Cassandra Good), $30,000
Research and writing of a history of the heirs of George and Martha Washington between the American Revolution and the Civil War.

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A Plague in New York City: How the City Confronted—and Survived—the Yellow Fever Epidemic in the Founding Era (Carolyn Eastman), $60,000
Research and writing of a book on the yellow fever epidemics of 1795 and 1798 in New York City, emphasizing the experience of doctors and other caregivers, including African Americans.

Colonial Williamsburg Acquires Tankard by Paul Revere

Posted in museums by Editor on August 20, 2021

Press release from Colonial Williamsburg (17 August 2021) . . .

Tankard, Marked by Paul Revere, Jr. (1734–1818), Boston, ca. 1795, silver (Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund, 2021-45).

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has added to its renowned American and British silver collection a rare tankard made ca. 1795 by America’s best-known colonial silversmith, Paul Revere (1734–1818) of Boston, Massachusetts. Originally used as communal drinking vessels, tankards are among the largest forms produced in Revere’s shop. Approximately three dozen Revere tankards are known, and this one is typical of those from the 1790s, with tapering sides, midband, tall domed lid, and pinecone form finials.

“Colonial Williamsburg has long sought a significant example of Revere’s work,” said Ronald Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for museums, preservation, and historic resources. “With its impressive size, fine detail, and excellent condition, this tankard fills a significant void in our American silver holdings.”

A beloved American patriot, Revere is well known for his activities during the Revolutionary War. Widely recognized as an exceptional colonial silversmith, Revere also engraved prints and bookplates, ran an import business, established a bell and cannon foundry, and started the first successful copper rolling mills in the new nation. Many of the objects made in his silver shop are well documented today due to the survival of his record books.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Revere tankard stands nearly 10 inches tall and holds 48 ounces of liquid (usually wine, ale or cider), making it weighty to lift when full. Its apparent size is enhanced by a stepped domed lid and an elongated finial. The tankard has a lighter appearance thanks to its scrolled openwork thumbpiece. It lacks engraving, which leaves the identity of the original owner a mystery. Details such as the decorative features and the substantial weight (nearly 34 troy ounces) may one day provide ownership clues through careful study of Revere’s shop records.

“Paul Revere is the best-known and most celebrated American silversmith,” said Janine Skerry, Colonial Williamsburg’s senior curator of metals. “A large, eye-catching object such as this tankard is a great way to connect with the public and draw both children and adults into the story of this amazing material and its role in our early history.”

This Revere tankard was acquired entirely through the generosity of The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections. It is now on view along with a ca. 1765 Revere silver porringer, another recent acquisition from the Joseph H. and June S. Hennage bequest announced earlier this year. Both objects are found in the exhibition Silver from Mine to Masterpiece in the Margaret Moore Hall Gallery at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the newly expanded Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.


Eight Works from Thoma Foundation to Undergo Technical Analysis

Posted in museums by Editor on August 6, 2021

Press release (4 August 2021) from Northwestern:

Our Lady of Copocabana, by an unidentified artist, La Paz (possibly), Bolivia, 18th century; oil and gold on embossed, chased, and engraved copper with inlaid mica; approximately 9 × 7 inches (Collection of Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation).

Northwestern University materials scientists will examine eight mysterious Bolivian copper artworks from the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation to help piece together the artworks’ unknown origins. The Center for the Scientific Studies in the Arts — a joint venture of Northwestern and the Art Institute of Chicago — selected the Thoma Foundation’s works to undergo scientific analysis, with potential to provide insights into the artworks’ origins and materials and techniques used in their creation.

The Thoma Foundation’s collections contain more than 175 works from the Spanish Americas, primarily 17th- to 19th-century paintings from South America and the Caribbean. Among the collection are eight oil paintings on embossed, chased, and engraved copper thought to originate in the La Paz region of Bolivia. Though made in workshop settings and produced at large scale for export across the South American continent, these artworks are little understood and have received scant scholarly attention.

The partnership between the Thoma Foundation and the Center for the Scientific Studies in the Arts will use advanced imaging techniques, extensive analytical resources, and technical expertise to investigate the works’ facture (the artist’s workmanship), palette, and any connections to printmaking and silversmithing, both of which were practiced contemporaneously in Bolivia. The team hopes to answer various questions, including why one work features green enamel, which is not found in any other piece in the collection, and why another work is framed with wood that is one century older than the rest of the piece.

“It is a central mission of the foundation to support scholarship in the art of the Spanish Americas, and so it is a particular pleasure for us to receive the scientific support of the team at Northwestern to add to the burgeoning body of knowledge on this art,” said Marilynn Thoma, founder of the Thoma Foundation.

This project builds on the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts’ recent collaborative efforts with the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago to examine the pigments used in Latin American and Caribbean art, which have received little attention compared to European art of the same period.

“We aim to be a part of the dialogue that recenters the New World to recognize it as a locale of cultural richness, deep indigenous know-how, and importance,” said Marc Walton, a Northwestern materials scientist, who leads the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts.

Walton’s team will analyze the works at the Thoma Foundation’s Orange Door facility in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood during the first two weeks of September. It aims to report its findings next year.

Exhibition | Rijksmuseum & Slavery

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on August 4, 2021
Hendrik van Schuylenburgh, The Trading Post of the Dutch East India Company in Hooghly, Bengal, 1665, oil on canvas, 203 × 316cm
(Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum)

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This project, aimed at reconsidering objects in the permanent collection of the Rijksmuseum, coincides with the major exhibition Slavery: Ten True Stories:

Rijksmuseum & Slavery: New Light on the Permanent Collection
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 18 May 2021 — February 2022

Many of the works in the Rijksmuseum’s permanent collection have links with the Netherlands’ slavery past. It’s a relationship you probably won’t notice at first glance and one you won’t typically read about on a museum label next to an object: from the nutmeg harvested by enslaved people, to an enslaved woman shipped off to the Netherlands; from the image of a dance party on a Surinamese plantation that hides critical messages about the slaveholder, to the pulpit from which an 18th-century legal philosopher made the case for abolishing slavery.

Rijksmuseum & Slavery is adding 77 museum labels to paintings and objects in the permanent collection. The new labels will remain in place for a year, until February 2022. All of them focus on the colonial power of the Netherlands, which from the 17th century onwards was inextricably bound up with a system that included slavery. Some of the labels tell the stories of people who, under Dutch rule, were enslaved and put to work, and had their status reduced to that of objects, while others highlight people who profited from slavery, or spoke out against it.

When the Slavery exhibition and Rijksmuseum & Slavery have ended, the museum will evaluate both the pre-existing labels and the new ones. Wherever possible, the new information will be integrated into the museum in order to do greater justice to the Netherlands’ complicated history. The labels are collected in a booklet available free of charge in the museum. The booklet can also be downloaded here. In addition, all the labelled works are available online as a collection in Rijksstudio (in two parts: 1500–1650 and 1650–1960).

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Hendrik Keun, The Garden and Coach House of 524 Keizersgracht in Amsterdam, 1772, oil on panel (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum).

From the booklet: first the original label and then the newly added one:

Nicolaas Doekscheer, who lived at 524 Keizersgracht, built a grand, Rococo coach house on the Kerkstraat, which adjoined the back of his garden. He is here depicted conversing with the gardener, while his wife speaks to a maidservant. The two young men are Doekscheer’s nephews and heirs. The painting is still in its original Rococo frame.

The 18th-century Dutch elite benefitted greatly from the slavery-based plantation economy.[1] So did Nicolaas Doekscheer and his associate Hendrik Steenbergen, both depicted here in a garden. They financed no less than fifteen plantations in Berbice, Demerary, and Essequebo (all three part of present-day Guyana, South America).[2] Thanks to these loans, plantation owners were able to set up their coffee, cotton, and sugar plantations, while in Amsterdam Doekscheer and Steenbergen made a substantial profit from the interest.[3] See booklet for the footnotes.

Exhibition | Family & Friends: Reynolds at Port Eliot

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on July 26, 2021

Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of the Eliot Family, 1746, oil on canvas, 85 × 112 cm (Plymouth: The Box, A16; acquired from the Trustees of Port Eliot Estate through the acceptance in lieu scheme, 2007).

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Press release for the exhibition, via Art Daily. . .

Family & Friends: Reynolds at Port Eliot
The Box, Plymouth, 24 July — 5 September 2021

Curated by Emma Philip

Family & Friends: Reynolds at Port Eliot is a new, free exhibition that draws on The Box’s extensive collection of paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792)—the UK’s single largest public collection of the artist’s work outside of London—to explore the enduring connection between the Plymouth-born master painter and the Eliot family of Port Eliot in St Germans, Cornwall. On view from 24 July until 5 September, the exhibition paints an intimate picture of how a rare fusion of patronage and genuine friendship supported Plymouth’s most famous portrait painter throughout his life, from budding local artist to founding president of the Royal Academy. Intimate in scale and subject matter, the exhibition is a precursor to a major celebration in 2023 which will mark the 300th anniversary of Reynolds’ birth.

It was Reynolds’s early portraits of naval officers living around Plymouth Dock (Devonport) that caught the attention of Captain John Hamilton, a man Reynolds would paint three times over the course of his life and a close friend of the Eliots who later married into the family.

The Eliot connection proved both lucrative and personally fulfilling as Edward Eliot—later the first Lord Eliot—was one of Reynolds’s repeat patrons and acted as one of the pallbearers at his funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1792. The close bond between the Eliots and Reynolds endured even after his death, with the family continuing to purchase his work when it became available, such as Hope Nursing Love, acquired in 1835.

Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Lady Anne Bonfoy, née Eliot (1729–1810), oil on canvas, 125 × 101 cm (Plymouth: The Box, A18; acquired from the Trustees of Port Eliot Estate through the acceptance in lieu scheme, 2007).

Perhaps it was Reynolds’s exceptional ability to capture the individual characters of his sitters that first attracted the Eliot family, or perhaps it was this close relationship that gave rise to some of Reynolds’ most eye-catching work. Many of the pieces within the exhibition speak to this mastery, in particular a rare example of an early group portrait in The Eliot Family (1746), which remarkably shows children actually playing and foreshadows Captain John Hamilton’s future role as part of the family, and Lady Anne Bonfoy (née Eliot) (1755), a stunning portrait which depicts the young woman—whom Reynolds had known for a number of years—in the type of dynamic stance previously reserved for portraits of men.

Family & Friends: Reynolds at Port Eliot is an opportunity for the visitors to see 14 of the 23 paintings that were accepted by Plymouth City Council in lieu of inheritance tax in 2007, and which now form part of The Box’s permanent collection. The Box owns a total of 18 autograph works by Reynolds, plus three attributed to or after Reynolds, as well as a number of his personal items.

After visiting the exhibition, visitors can explore additional gallery spaces at The Box displaying work by and objects belonging to Reynolds. The collection features his 1746 Self-Portrait, his 1755 sitter’s book, palettes, mahl sticks, paint box, and sketchbook from 1750–52. Four works are also on display in the Cottonian Research Room: portraits of Reverend Samuel Reynolds (his father), Frances Reynolds (his sister), Charles Rogers, and a further self-portrait.

Emma Philip, Senior Curator at The Box said: “We’re delighted to display these important Reynolds paintings from our collections for our audiences to enjoy this summer. Now, more than ever, we all feel the importance of our family and friends, and of our images of them. This exhibition offers the opportunity to see an intimate, historic set of portraits and examine the relationship between Reynolds and the Eliot family from a new perspective.”

Councillor Mark Deacon, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Culture, Leisure and Sport said: “Sir Joshua Reynolds is an artist of immense local significance as well as national and international importance and so it’s wonderful to see this intimate celebration of his portraiture of people who meant a great deal to him staged here in Plymouth. The works you’ll see at the exhibition offer a glimpse into those accepted in lieu by Plymouth City Council in 2007 ahead of a more substantial celebration of Reynolds in 2023.”

The Box is Plymouth’s new £46 million cultural destination, proudly led by Plymouth City Council in Britain’s Ocean City. A museum, gallery, and archive. A cafe, shop, and bar. A place that you can make your own, and where there’s always something new to discover. The opening of The Box was one of the most significant cultural events in the UK in 2020. Plymouth’s former Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library and St Luke’s church buildings have been completely transformed with a series of new galleries and exhibition spaces.

Notre Dame Launches New Online Access Platform

Posted in museums by Editor on July 24, 2021

Press release (21 July 2021) from the Snite Museum of Art:

The Hesburgh Libraries and the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame have launched Marble (Museum, Archives, Rare Books, and Libraries Exploration)—an online teaching and research platform designed to make distinctive cultural heritage collections from across the University accessible through a single portal.

The development of Marble was made possible, in part, by a three-and-one-half-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create an open-access, unified software solution that would enable universities to access museum and library holdings through a single online platform.

University libraries, archives, and museums nationwide have been digitizing collections for well over a decade and have long sought collaborative solutions that would enable their respective holdings to be easily discovered online and used for teaching and research. However, there have been many obstacles preventing efficient and expansive research across collections, including disparate technical systems, discipline-specific practices, and descriptive metadata norms. A cross-disciplinary team developed Marble to address this universal challenge and to help transform teaching and research at Notre Dame and other institutions facing similar needs.

“Thanks to the hard work of so many in the Hesburgh Libraries and Snite Museum of Art and the generosity of the Mellon Foundation, Notre Dame is transforming the way scholars on campus and around the world further knowledge and advance research,” said Marie Lynn Miranda, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost. “It’s a wonderful privilege for Notre Dame to play a role in preserving these important cultural heritage collections and in making those collections easier to access, explore, and investigate.”

The Snite Museum of Art, Rare Books & Special Collections, and the University Archives have historically been independent gateways for faculty and students to engage with research collections, historical information and cultural objects. Users could access the physical collections at different locations and some item descriptions online, but few resources have been made available as digital surrogates, let alone through a single web platform.

In this unified discovery space, users now have open access to a selection of digitized cultural heritage collections that were once inaccessible. While these digitized materials are only a fraction of the University’s holdings, cross-institutional teams will collaborate to add new items regularly.

“The museum is grateful to be a part of this research partnership and the initial phase of the Marble project,” said Joseph Antenucci Becherer, director of the Snite Museum. “Offering the academy, and all users, access to our collections is deeply meaningful and useful in guiding the future of both research and teaching, not to mention pure enjoyment for even the more casual, curious user.”

“Marble offers key features that fundamentally transform the way digital collections can be used for teaching and research,” said Diane Parr Walker, the Edward H. Arnold University Librarian. “The museum and library collaboration and the grant outcomes will have a transformational impact on pedagogical access, scholarly engagement, and research outcomes at Notre Dame.”

Faculty, students, and the general public can browse Marble and download select digitized materials from the Snite Museum of Art, Rare Books & Special Collections, and the University Archives in a single platform—including books, manuscripts, sculptures, paintings, photographs, ephemera, and more. Each item displays one or more images with descriptive information and linked metadata to view related or similar items.

At the heart of Marble is an open-source image sharing standard called IIIF, or the International Image Interoperability Framework. IIIF is a set of universal specifications that provides a standardized way of storing and displaying images. One of the benefits of using IIIF images is that they can be viewed alongside other IIIF-compliant images from institutions around the world. IIIF viewing features include zoom, rotation, color manipulation, comparable viewing, and options for cross-institutional research.

The Portfolio tool turns members of the Notre Dame community into curators, allowing each person to create customized lists and collections of content. Users browse, search, and easily save items of interest into portfolios for future viewing. Portfolios are versatile—they can be shared for teaching, used for course assignments, or annotated for individual research. They can remain private for personal use or be shared with students, campus peers, or the public.

“Marble’s features are designed to facilitate primary resource discovery and streamline the research process. This platform allows for deep integration of the University’s cultural heritage holdings—regardless of where they reside,” said Mikala Narlock, digital collections strategy librarian. “We hope Marble will become an essential and indispensable platform for teaching and learning with digital collections at Notre Dame.”

The University of Notre Dame shares the Mellon Foundation’s commitment to advancing museum-library collaborations through freely available, scalable solutions.

The Marble software has been developed in the cloud, making it more scalable and less costly than software deployed on a local network infrastructure. It uses a harvest model to draw descriptive information from key source systems and features a shared administrative back-end to augment harvested data. This solution is possible due to a shared understanding of different descriptive terms.

In addition to a technical solution, the grant team facilitated critical social infrastructure conversations to optimize collection management and metadata workflows. The development roadmap will enable new features and continue to improve collaboration between libraries and museums.

The code for the Marble project was developed and will be maintained by the Hesburgh Libraries development team. The platform code is openly licensed under an Apache 2.0 license and available on GitHub. Project documentation, technical diagrams, collaborative processes, and best practices are published on the Open Science Framework.

Online access to these selections of distinctive cultural heritage materials at Notre Dame is free and open to the public. Visit marble.nd.edu often to see new materials and featured portfolios published throughout the year.

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