New Acquisitions at The Huntington

Posted in museums by Editor on October 28, 2022

From the press release (15 September 2022) . . .

The Huntington acquires large-scale Jacobean portrait and a rare early 19th-century portrait of a young Black man, among other works.

Unknown artist, British, 19th century, Portrait of a Young Black Man, 1800–20, oil on canvas, 9 × 7 inches (The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California has acquired a group of art works to add to its well-regarded British collections, including a large-scale, meticulously painted Jacobean portrait of a noblewoman, probably by Robert Peake the Elder (ca. 1551–1619), and a rare British painting of a Black man made around 1800. The acquisitions were funded by The Huntington’s Art Collectors’ Council. Among other purchased works were a set of drawings relating to the girl depicted in The Huntington’s iconic painting Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence; a modernist pastel by C.R.W. Nevinson; and a vase by Christopher Dresser, one of Britain’s most important designers of the late 19th century. The two paintings will go on view in the Huntington Art Gallery on 15 February 2023, with the opening of the related special exhibition The Hilton Als Series: Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

“These new acquisitions offer important depth and nuance to the interpretation of our signature British art collections of paintings, works on paper, and decorative art,” said Christina Nielsen, the Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Museum at The Huntington. “I’m delighted that we will debut these two centuries-old portraits in a gallery where Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s intimate contemporary portraits of Nigerian children will be across the room. Akunyili Crosby’s work evokes tropes of Western portraiture and should provide fascinating context to the two older paintings.”

Robert Peake the Elder, Portrait of a Lady, traditionally identified as Eleanor Wortley, Lady Lee, 1615, oil on canvas, 82 × 47 inches.

Robert Peake the Elder, Portrait of a Lady, traditionally identified as Eleanor Wortley, Lady Lee, 1615, oil on canvas, 82 × 47 inches (The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

The expertly rendered full-length portrait of a noblewoman from Jacobean England (1603–25) was probably painted by Robert Peake the Elder (ca. 1551–1619). The sitter had been identified as Eleanor Wortley, Lady Lee, from Oxfordshire, based on clues from a record written in the 18th century. However, that theory is now in question, as other evidence indicates the painting was probably made in 1615, when Wortley was still married to Sir Henry Lee and not yet widowed—but this sitter is in mourning clothes.

The woman in the painting stands between two red curtains on a precious imported carpet. She is richly dressed, styled in a black satin gown with a white silk lining, diamond encrusted jewels, strings of pearls, and expensive lace at the neck and wrists. An embroidered petticoat edged with a silver thread fringe is visible at the bottom of the skirt. In her left hand, she holds a white handkerchief bordered with Flemish lace. Her jewelry is particularly fine and includes a crown of pearls in the style typically worn by a countess. There are also jewels in her hair, a bejeweled gold chain inset with pearls and rubies around her neck, and heavy ropes of pearls on her wrists.

Robert Peake the Elder was active in the latter part of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign and for most of King James I’s. The portrait probably dates to the late years of Peake’s career, when he specialized in the full-length ‘costume pieces’ that were unique to England at the time.

“This is our first example of the kind of painting that anticipated the grand manner formula of full-length portraits of nobles dressed in lavish clothing, which influenced such artists as Anthony van Dyck and later Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, all of whom are already beautifully represented in our collections,” said Melinda McCurdy, curator of British art at The Huntington. “This impressive acquisition allows us to broaden the story that we can tell about British art in our galleries.”

Unknown artist, British, Portrait of a Young Black Man, 1800–20, oil on canvas, 9 × 7 inches.

“In this mysterious portrait, a young Black man stares out at us with a captivating face, his brow slightly furrowed and his gaze direct and calm,” McCurdy said. “Dressed in a frock coat, waistcoat, and red neckerchief, he has a presence that is dignified and self-possessed, and we wonder, ‘Who is this person?’”

The sitter’s name and identity are not known. He is possibly British; by 1800, there were about 15,000 people of African or Afro Caribbean descent living in England. During the period, there were some prominent figures of African descent in British society, such as the abolitionist and grocer Ignatius Sancho (1729–1780), whose portrait was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1768. The sitter was possibly a servant or, given his dress, a sailor, since the style of his coat and red neckcloth are consistent with sailor attire of the period.

“While a bit of mystery surrounds it, this portrait is an exceptional addition to our collection of British portraiture,” McCurdy said. “Single-figure British portraits of Anglo African sitters from the early 19th century are exceedingly rare. The portrait also adds a new historical lens through which we can view the works of other artists in our collection, including Joshua Reynolds, who was active in the English abolitionist movement. Perhaps most strikingly, the painting serves as a historical counterpart to our already iconic Kehinde Wiley painting, A Portrait of a Young Gentleman.”

Mary Clementina Barrett, Cinnamon Hill Great House, Home of Samuel and Mary Barrett, ca. 1830, graphite on embossed Bristol board, 9 × 14 inches; Retreat Sea House, St. Ann’s, Jamaica, 30 January 1830, graphite on paper, 9 × 14 inches; and Slave Houses on the Barrett Plantation, Jamaica, ca. 1830, graphite on embossed Turnbull’s superfine board, 9 × 14 inches.

Mary Clementina Barrett, Slave Houses on the Barrett Plantation, Jamaica, ca. 1830, graphite on embossed Turnbull’s superfine board, 9 × 14 inches (The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

The Huntington also acquired three drawings by Mary Clementina Barrett (1803–1831), the wife of Samuel Barrett Moulton Barrett, who is the brother of Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton, better known to Huntington audiences by her nickname, ‘Pinkie’. Had she lived beyond childhood, Pinkie would have been Mary Barrett’s sister-in-law. The drawings depict Cinnamon Hill Estate, the Barrett family’s Jamaican sugar plantation where Pinkie grew up. Two of the drawings focus on the owners’ residences: Cinnamon Hill Great House and Retreat Sea House. A third drawing shows the buildings that housed the enslaved people of the estate. Together, the drawings present a visceral reminder of the system of human bondage that underpinned the wealth of many British families.

Pinkie was born in Jamaica, where she spent the first nine years of her life on her family’s plantation before being sent to school in England, where she died of an infection two years later in 1795. “The tragic circumstances of this girl’s short life, immortalized in Thomas Lawrence’s famed 1794 portrait, have kept Pinkie’s family history in the background,” McCurdy said. “These drawings bring that story to light.”

Mary Barrett would have received training in draftsmanship, considered an essential part of a wealthy young woman’s education, and her drawings reveal her mastery of the pencil. The views are taken from a wide vantage point, capturing incidents in the life of the plantation. Rendered in fine, precise strokes, Barrett’s drawings are full of incidental details, valuable for what they show of plantation life as well as for what they leave out. Two of the scenes include the residences of the estate’s enslaved people and all three present images of the people themselves, but Barrett does not depict the back-breaking labor of the sugar cane fields that made her family’s position in British society possible.

“These three drawings are essential to building a fuller understanding of The Huntington’s collections. We plan to use them in installations illuminating the history of the British Empire; in educational programming; and in traditional and online publications that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion at the institution,” Nielsen said. “As stewards of the greatest assembly of 18th-century grand manner portraits outside of the United Kingdom, we must reckon with the real lives of the people represented on our walls. These portraits are reflective of the age in which they were produced—in all its complexity—and that is the most important story we can tell.”

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, From an Office Window, 1916, pastel on paper, 12 × 9 inches.

A soft geometry characterizes the newly acquired 1916 pastel by British modernist C.R.W. Nevinson (1889–1946). Depicting the rooftops of London from the vantage point of an office window, the painting features a strong, refracted composition of zigzags populated by glowing windows, puffs of smoke, and telephone wires. The atmospheric effect of smog over the city, perhaps at dusk or dawn, is rendered in a soft grisaille (a technique using gray tones). A thin window frame, just slightly askew, sets off the whole picture through its angular borders. Nevinson is most famous for his pictures of war. Witnessing the carnage of trench warfare during World War I, Nevinson returned from the front to exhibit his controversial pictures of war, including soldiers facedown in the mud or convalescing on stretchers. From an Office Window comes from this formative period in the artist’s career, when he also focused on the atmosphere of the city and, in particular, London’s smoke and smog. Several years after making this picture, Nevinson helped to form the Brighter London Society, which advocated for the beautification of the city and the improvement of such conditions as air quality. “From an Office Window is particularly relevant today, given our own increasing awareness of the climate crisis,” McCurdy said.

The Huntington holds another urban Nevinson drawing, Bar in Marseilles (1921). From an Office Window may have been a study for a 1917 oil-on-canvas version of the same composition, which was also translated to a mezzotint in 1918.

Christopher Dresser (designer), Basket Vase, 1892–96, glazed earthenware, 9 inches high.

Christopher Dresser was one of Britain’s most important independent designers of the late 19th century. The rare ‘basket’-style vase, designed by Dresser and produced by Ault Pottery, bears a variety of international influences characteristic of Dresser’s imaginative, deeply historical, and improvisational style. The vase’s luscious deep green and yellow glaze is inspired by traditional Chinese and Japanese pottery, and is typical of Dresser’s finer pieces. The form—with its pouch-like, curving shape tapering to a thin handle—is reminiscent of Japanese bronze vessels and woven moon baskets used for ikebana, or flower arranging.

Dresser worked for a variety of manufacturing firms during his long and influential career. Early on, he trained as a botanist, often incorporating his knowledge of flowers and plants into his wallpaper, textile, ceramic, furniture, and metal designs. He also drew inspiration from ancient cultures, taking cues from ancient Peruvian pottery and Persian, Egyptian, and Moroccan objects, as well as Asian styles that influenced his cutting-edge, modernist designs. He was a proponent of the Anglo Japanese style, writing and lecturing widely on the topic, and he played a significant role in introducing the style to middle-class audiences in Britain and the United States.

“Although The Huntington’s collection is strong in British Arts and Crafts and aesthetic movement material, it astonishingly did not include works by Dresser, who was among the most prolific designers of his era,” McCurdy said. “This vase adds to our substantial collection of works by such contemporaneous designers as William Morris and Walter Crane.” It also connects with the Japanese influences that are visible in The Huntington’s American works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Herter Brothers, and Greene and Greene.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Acquire Work by Canaletto

Posted in museums by Editor on October 26, 2022

Canaletto, Venice, the Grand Canal Looking East with Santa Maria della Salute, ca. 1750, oil on canvas, 133 × 165 cm
(Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

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From the press release (20 October 2022) . . .

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are delighted to announce the acquisition of Venice, the Grand Canal Looking East with Santa Maria della Salute, a preeminent work by Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (1697–1768), considered the greatest Venetian view painter of the eighteenth century. The acquisition was made possible by a generous donation from the San Francisco philanthropist Diane B. Wilsey. Originally commissioned in 1750 by William Holbech for Farnborough Hall in England, the painting has been continuously held in private collections, including most recently that of Ann and Gordon Getty. The painting will now take its place as one of the public treasures of San Francisco as part of the European Paintings collection at the Legion of Honor, widely known for its exceptional quality.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to Diane B. Wilsey for her generous gift of this breathtaking work to the city of San Francisco, and unmatched support of the Fine Arts Museums over many years, including funding our beloved free Saturdays program for Bay Area residents,” states Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The first major painting by Canaletto to enter the Fine Arts Museums’ collections, Venice, the Grand Canal Looking East with Santa Maria della Salute, builds on the Legion of Honor’s robust holdings of eighteenth-century Italian art.”

“With the Legion of Honor Centenary approaching in 2024, I wanted to give a gift to the museum, to the residents of San Francisco, and to our visitors from around the world, that matched the magnitude of this moment. It is an honor to help the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in its acquisitions of serious and important works of art that continue to elevate and distinguish its collection,” says Diane Wilsey.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The Empire of Flora, ca. 1743, oil on canvas (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 61.44.19).

“Christie’s is thrilled to have facilitated this pre-auction private sale that will benefit the public twice, by funding the arts and sciences through the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, and by ensuring that a Canaletto masterpiece will inspire and amaze visitors to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for generations to come,” commented Bonnie Brennan, President of Christie’s Americas, “On behalf of Christie’s I want to congratulate Diane B. Wilsey and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for making this wonderful acquisition for the good of all a reality.”

Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute joins an exquisite group of eighteenth-century Italian pictures, including the Empire of Flora by Canaletto’s Venetian compatriot Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, architectural capricci by his Roman rival Panini, and further works by his Guardi and Pietro Longhi held in the Legion of Honor’s collection. The painting also joins a closely related view, painted a century and a half later depicting the Grand Canal and church of the Salute, a 1908 masterpiece by Claude Monet.

Claude Monet, The Grand Canal, Venice, 1908, oil on canvas (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1960.29).

“Acquiring a masterpiece by Canaletto has long been a priority for our collections. Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute represents a cornerstone acquisition for the kickoff of our Gift of Art Campaign to celebrate the Legion of Honor’s Centenary. Thanks to Mrs. Wilsey’s remarkable generosity, this masterpiece returns to San Francisco where it will be featured prominently as a highlight in our galleries,” says Melissa Buron, Director of Curatorial Affairs.

Bathed in late afternoon light, Canaletto’s composition looks eastward, down the Grand Canal, past the stately church of Santa Maria della Salute and the customs house on the Punta della Dogana. Sailboats and gondolas dot the placid water, and Venetians of various social classes mingle in the foreground. On the horizon, the bell towers of San Giorgio dei Greci, the Piazza San Marco, and San Pietro di Castelo float like buoys, while half the canvas is given over to a radiant sky, its clouds tinted pink by the approaching sunset.

“Depicting one of the most famous views in Venice, this is among the most important pictures by the artist to come onto the market in the last twenty years. Taking as its principal subject the church of Santa Maria della Salute, built in an act of civic piety following the 1629–31 outbreak of plague in Venice, the painting offers contemporary audiences a symbol of hope and resilience as we emerge from our own pandemic,” adds Emily Beeny, Curator in Charge of European Painting at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Canaletto left Venice in 1746, to spend nearly a decade in England, where he had developed a loyal clientele among the British gentlemen who had visited his Venetian workshop during their grand tours of Italy. Once such client was William Holbech (c. 1699–1771), the owner of a country house in Warwickshire called Farnborough Hall. Having acquired two earlier Venetian views by Canaletto (today in the Städtliche Kunstsammlungen, Augsburg; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa), he commissioned this painting and its pendant, a view of the Bacino di San Marco from the Piazzetta (today in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), from the artist in 1749 or 1750. These four works were likely installed, along with a group of Roman view paintings by Canaletto’s Roman counterpart, Giovanni Paolo Panini, in the dining room at Farnborough Hall in the fall of 1750, and there they remained for nearly two hundred years. Ann and Gordon Getty acquired this picture in 1987, making it the centerpiece of their legendary San Francisco collection, which contained no fewer than four Venetian view paintings by Canaletto, as well as examples by his contemporaries and rivals Francesco Guardi and Bernardo Bellotto.

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Over the past 40 years, Diane B. Wilsey has established herself as one of greatest benefactors in San Francisco history. A leader, trustee, and long standing supporter of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, she raised over $200 million for a building for the new de Young museum, has donated key works of art and supported numerous exhibitions at the museums. Beginning in 2019, she generously underwrites the museums’ Free Saturday program, providing free general admission to the de Young and Legion of Honor for Bay Area residents every Saturday throughout the year. Her support extends to other major cultural organizations such as SFOpera, whose Center for Opera bears her name, SF Ballet, UCSF, the renovation of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral to the SF Zoo, and further to the SFSPCA, The Shanti Project, ICA Christo Rey Academy, Tenderloin housing programs, innumerable hospitals and schools, and the City of San Francisco’s Pandemic recovery efforts. San Francisco Mayor London Breed honored her during Women’s History Month as one of four ‘Women in Philanthropy: the Givers and the Doers’.

Williamsburg Acquires Its Earliest Piece of American Silver

Posted in museums by Editor on October 25, 2022

Press release (17 October 2022) from Colonial Williamsburg:

Caudle Cup, John Hull and Robert Sanderson, and marked by Jeremiah Dummer, silver, Boston, ca. 1670, broad, baluster-shaped body with a lightly everted rim, a low base and a pair of cast handles applied to opposite sides (Colonial Williamsburg, 2022-74).

A 17th-century caudle cup that belonged to the Puritan congregation of the First Church of Christ in Farmington, Connecticut, and was used there as a vessel for sacramental wine, was recently acquired by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation making it the earliest piece of American silver in its famed collection. The cup, wrought around 1670 in Boston, was fashioned by the first silversmiths making goods in what is now the United States.

“Colonial Williamsburg’s curators have worked diligently and with notable successes over the last decade to assemble a collection of American-made silver worthy of the institution’s other decorative arts holdings,” said Ronald Hurst, senior vice president for education and historic resources. “The acquisition of this particularly early and well-preserved cup provides us with an excellent starting point for the story of American silversmithing over the next century and half.”

Although perfectly shaped to serve caudle—a hot, sweet, often alcoholic porridge—this so-called ‘caudle cup’ was used as a treasured part of the church’s ecclesiastical service. The cup’s stable, low body with its two handles (or ‘ears’) made it easy to pass from one congregant to another. Clearly popular, five others that are nearly identical to this earliest example, were acquired by the church before 1720.

Adding to the distinctiveness of this cup, struck into one side of it near the rim is the mark of Robert Sanderson, Sr. (ca. 1608–1693), a London-trained goldsmith who emigrated to America in 1639. On the bottom is the mark of his partner John Hull (1624–1683), a British-born tradesman who arrived in Boston in 1635. Also stamped into the cup is the mark of Jeremiah Dummer (1645–1718), the first native-born American silversmith, apprenticed to Hull in 1659. Interestingly, Dummer’s mark was struck over Sanderson’s, while Hull’s mark was struck over Dummer’s. Exactly what this means is unclear, but it likely has to do with Dummer’s transition from journeyman to master, and the opening of his own silversmithing business. The caudle cup is the only known piece to carry the marks of all three artisans. Sometime after the marks of Hull over Dummer were made, the church’s initials ‘F’ and ‘C’ (the ownership mark of ‘Farmington Church’) were engraved on the bottom of the cup flanking the center point.

The trio of Hull, Sanderson, and Dummer are also important in the world of numismatics as they were responsible for the birth of American money. John Hull was appointed Mintmaster of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1652 and was assisted by his partner Sanderson as well as his apprentice/journeyman Dummer. Operating from 1652 until 1682, Hull & Sanderson’s mint produced the famed Oak Tree and Pine Tree coinage, among other types, in their shop in Boston’s North End. Furthermore, when Massachusetts authorized the first issue of American paper money in 1690, it was Jeremiah Dummer who engraved the printing plates.

“Considering the rarity and significance of Hull & Sanderson’s work, I’d long wanted to see an example of their hollowware come to Colonial Williamsburg, but wasn’t sure it would be possible,” said Erik Goldstein, the Foundation’s senior curator of mechanical arts and numismatics and interim curator of metals. “This caudle cup, which ties the silversmithing partners to their famed apprentice Jeremiah Dummer and has an impeccable provenance back to the time it was wrought, is almost too much to ask for. It will be in very good company with our comprehensive, 94-piece collection of Hull & Sanderson’s silver coins, gifted to the Foundation by the Lasser Family.”

Around 1907, Farmington Church (as it is also known) decided their centuries-old silver should be housed elsewhere for safe keeping. Stored in a bank vault until 1964, the caudle cups were loaned to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, approximately 10 miles from Farmington. In the early 2000s, the congregation decided to sell the group in order to advance the church’s mission; the proceeds from the 2005 sale went to structural renovation and the construction of a new building.

The caudle cup was purchased with funds from The Joseph H. and June S. Hennage Fund. American silver aficionados, Mr. and Mrs. Hennage would have been delighted to know that funds from their bequest to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation were used for this important acquisition.

Strawberry Hill Acquires Walpole’s Iconic Blue and White Tub

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on October 22, 2022

Yes, that tub! Lots of places to go for more information, but one might start with Luisa Calè, “Gray’s ‘Ode’ and Walpole’s China Tub: The Order of the Book and The Paper Lives of an Object,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 45.1 (Fall 2011): 105–25. From the press release, via Art Daily:

One of the most iconic and macabre objects owned by Horace Walpole (1717–1797) has been reacquired by Strawberry Hill House, thanks to the UK’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme. The beautiful, large blue and white vase achieved a certain notoriety after Walpole’s favourite cat, Selima, drowned in it while trying to catch goldfish, which the author kept in it. The incident was later immortalised in a mock-heroic ode by Walpole’s friend, the poet Thomas Gray, “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes” (1747).

The cat’s death actually occurred at Walpole’s London house, in Arlington Street. The bowl, along with many other works of art, was moved to Strawberry Hill sometime in the 1760s. In 1773, Walpole commissioned a Gothic-style pedestal for the tub and a label to be affixed to it with the first stanza of the poem. After 1778 the tub was moved to the Little Cloister, outside of the house, with the 1784 Description describing the new location: “On a pedestal, stands the large blue and white china tub in which Mr. Walpole’s cat was drowned; on a label of the pedestal is written the first stanza of Mr. Gray’s beautiful ode on that occasion, ‘Twas on this lofty vase’s side, Where China’s gayest art has dy’d. The azure flow’rs that blow, Demurest of the tabby kind, The pensive Selima reclin’d, Gaz’d on the lake below’.”

Research prompted by last year’s In Focus exhibition devoted to the tub, together with the expertise required to secure its return to Strawberry Hill House, demonstrated that it is an outstanding work of art in its own right—albeit with an extraordinary backstory. The quality of every aspect of the jardiniere is superior; from the shaping of the pot, to the glazing and firing, all demonstrate a remarkable level of artistry.

Announcing the permanent return of the vase, Derek Purnell, Director, Strawberry Hill House & Garden, said: “Once again, we are grateful to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which has allowed us to reacquire one of the most iconic objects in the collection. An object whose true value recently emerged, thanks to the attention prompted by our 2021 In Focus exhibition featuring the goldfish bowl. Traditionally described as a typical 18th-century Chinese product, made for a foreign clientele, Walpole’s porcelain vase is in reality an older and more valuable object. The jardinière, of exceptional quality, dates from the 17th century and is decorated with a continuous design of the ‘Three Friends of Winter’—pine, prunus, and bamboo—within a fenced garden of rocks and plants.”

Edward Harley OBE, Chairman of the AIL Panel said: “This Chinese jardinière is remarkable for its association with Horace Walpole and the drowning of his favourite cat. It was placed on prominent display in the cloisters at Strawberry Hill during Walpole’s lifetime, and it is fitting that, thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, it has been returned to its former home.”

Arts Minister Stuart Andrew said: “The Acceptance in Lieu scheme exists so important works of art and heritage objects can be owned by the nation and displayed for everyone to enjoy. It is fantastic that this vase has been returned to Horace Warpole’s former estate where it can go on permanent display in its rightful home.”

The porcelain vase will go on permanent display in the Hall at Strawberry Hill House, from Wednesday, 26 October 2022.

Baltimore Museum of Art Announces New Appointments

Posted in museums by Editor on October 21, 2022

From the BMA press release (22 September 2022) . . .

Dr. Lara Yeager-Crasselt has been named Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Department Head at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The Baltimore Museum of Art recently announced that Dr. Lara Yeager-Crasselt has been named Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Department Head. Yeager-Crasselt is a scholar and curator of early modern European art, specializing in painting, sculpture, and tapestry produced in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. As part of her new role, she will oversee the reconceptualization of the BMA’s galleries of 15th- through 19th-century European art, with a particular emphasis on expanding the narratives told through the museum’s expansive holdings.

The BMA has also promoted Dr. Leslie Cozzi to Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs in recognition of her numerous contributions to the museum since she joined in 2018.

Additionally, the museum announced that it has received a generous $2 million gift from BMA trustee and longtime Baltimore-based philanthropist Anne L. Stone to endow a curatorial position in the Decorative Arts department. The funds are currently applied to the position of Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, which is held by Brittany Luberda, a scholar of 18th-century objects and furniture who has been with the BMA since 2019. In recognition of Stone’s gift, the position is named the Anne Stone Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts. This named endowment will also follow future promotions in the department. The BMA’s Decorative Arts collection comprises approximately 8,000 works of art, including examples across media from North America, Europe, and non-Indigenous South America from around 2500 BCE to the present day.

Dr. Asma Naeem, Interim Co-Director and The Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator at the BMA states, “We are delighted to have such exceptional scholars to support the BMA’s mission. Dr. Lara Yeager-Crasselt’s appointment brings an incredible depth of knowledge, experience organizing world-class exhibitions, and alignment with our mission for equity and scholarship that will be invaluable to the ongoing development of the museum’s curatorial vision. Dr. Leslie Cozzi is an outstanding scholar, curator, and colleague who has a record of championing underrepresented artists with her acquisitions and exhibitions, and we are deeply grateful to our trustee and friend Anne Stone for her generous gift to endow the position of Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, which highlights the importance of the department. The decorative arts are crucial to the museum’s mission to connect Baltimore communities and upend hierarchies of painting and sculpture.”

Yeager-Crasselt is a renowned scholar of early modern European art with significant experience in curating, teaching, and writing on a range of subjects in the field. Prior to joining the BMA, Yeager-Crasselt served as Curator of The Leiden Collection, a private collection of Dutch and Flemish art based in New York. There, she co-edited the online catalogue and oversaw the collection’s research, loans, and exhibitions, including co-curating its global tour with exhibitions at Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and The State Hermitage Museum in Russia; and the National Museum of China in Beijing. Closer to home, she developed the collection’s focus exhibitions with recent shows at the Loeb Art Center at Vassar College and Exchanging Words: Women and Letters in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, currently on view at the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego. Previously, Yeager-Crasselt held positions at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and KU Leuven as a Belgian American Educational Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow. Her publications include Michael Sweerts (1618–1664): Shaping the Artist and Academy in Rome and Brussels (Brepols, 2016), as well as contributions to exhibition catalogues and articles in journals. She has held teaching positions at several universities, and her research focuses on artists working in the Southern Netherlands and Brussels, the dynamics of artistic exchange between the Low Countries and Italy, as well as broader issues of artistic mobility, identity, and collaboration. Yeager-Crasselt earned her PhD in Art History from the University of Maryland and her BA in History, Art History, and French from Vassar College.

Dr. Leslie Cozzi joined the staff of the BMA in the fall of 2018 as Associate Curator in the department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. She is responsible for the museum’s post-1900 collection of works on paper, and over the past four years has curated exhibitions on the work of William Cordova, SHAN Wallace, Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick, Zackary Drucker, Ana Mendieta, and Valerie Maynard. She co-curated the critically acclaimed survey A Modern Influence: Henri Matisse, Etta Cone and Baltimore and is currently organizing solo exhibitions on Darrel Ellis and Omar Ba. Prior to her arrival at the BMA, Cozzi was the 2017–18 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Winner in Modern Italian Studies at the American Academy in Rome, where she conducted research on the intersections between feminism, race, and text in post-war and contemporary Italian art. Between 2013 and 2017, Cozzi served as the Curatorial Associate at the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum. She received her PhD from the University of Virginia in 2012 and her BA from Yale University in 2003.

Brittany Luberda is a scholar of 18th-century objects and furniture, and as the Anne Stone Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, she oversees and works with a growing collection of approximately 8,000 objects and furniture from North America, Europe, and non-Indigenous South America. She curated the exhibition She Knew Where She Was Going: Gee’s Bend Quilts and Civil Rights, co-curated a major reinstallation of the American Modernism collection, and is currently organizing an exhibition of works by regional artists who have received a Baker Artist Award. Prior to joining the BMA in 2019, Luberda spent three years as the Research Assistant in Decorative Arts and Design at the Saint Louis Art Museum, where she studied European and American decorative arts from the 15th through 19th centuries. From 2013 to 2016, Luberda was a department assistant in both Conservation and Decorative Arts at The Frick Collection in New York. She has additional curatorial experience at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago. Luberda holds an MA in Art History from Southern Methodist University and a BA in Art History from the University of Chicago.

Anne L. Stone is a Baltimore native and a longtime supporter of local education and arts organizations. She has a passionate interest in the arts and collects fine art, craft furniture, and fine American antiques. A BMA Trustee since 2021, Stone has been very supportive of the museum for many years as an active Council Member and generous contributor of works of art. Her early education in Baltimore was at Calvert and Bryn Mawr schools, along with piano training at the Peabody Institute. After earning her master’s degree in Library Science, Stone worked in Manhattan at a publishing company before returning to Baltimore and working at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. She has previously served on the boards of the Choral Arts Society and Maryland SPCA and volunteered extensively at the Forbush School at Sheppard Pratt.

Smithsonian Commitments to the Center for the Study of Global Slavery

Posted in exhibitions, museums, resources by Editor on October 17, 2022

Brownell’s recent article for The New York Times highlights priorities of the National Museum of African American History and Culture—as first established under the leadership of Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director, who now oversees the entire Smithsonian Institution—as well as forthcoming projects including the international exhibition In Slavery’s Wake.

Ginanne Brownell, “A Smithsonian Museum Sharpens Focus on the History of Slavery,” The New York Times (14 October 2022). Despite ambivalence from some on the topic, the institution’s latest leader “knew that slavery had to be at the heart of the museum.”

Exterior view of the National Museum of African American History and Culture; Washington, DC (Photo by Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC).

“Every nation is ambivalent about slavery,” said Mr. [Lonnie] Bunch, the first African American to lead the Smithsonian. “The people of color are ambivalent: Is this something to be embarrassed by? Is this something that is better left unsaid? So basically, I knew that slavery had to be at the heart of the museum.”

When the museum [National Museum of African American History and Culture] opened in 2017, so did the Center for the Study of Global Slavery within it. The center’s work focuses on three international collaborative initiatives: the Slave Wrecks Project, the Global Curatorial Project, and the Slave Voyages Consortium.

The Slave Wrecks Project helps coordinate searches for sunken slave ships and works on maritime archaeological research and historical recovery. This month in Senegal, the inaugural Slave Wrecks Project Academy’s cohort of African and diaspora students are being trained in diving and learning about the global slave trade. The center also works with slavevoyages.org to help expand data collection beyond the trans-Atlantic slave trade and is working to broaden research into both the Indian Ocean and inter-American slave trades.

Under the auspices of the Global Curatorial Project, a number of partner institutions—including Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum, Iziko Slave Lodge in Cape Town, and Belgium’s Royal Museum of Central Africa—are in the midst of putting together In Slavery’s Wake, a traveling exhibition that will open first at the museum in Washington in late 2024 and then move to Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

The center will be hosting an event in Lisbon, Portugal in January, with a tentative title Reckoning with Race: The Social Memory of the Slave Trade in Our World, that will aim to bring more public attention to the role that Portugal played in the slave trade. Mr. Bunch will be one of the event’s speakers. . . .

The full article is available here»

The Met Acquires an Early Work by the Marquise de Grollier

Posted in museums by Editor on August 21, 2022

Charlotte Eustache Sophie de Faligny Damas, marquise de Grollier, Still Life with a Vase of Flowers, Melon, Peaches, and Grapes, 1780, oil on canvas, 46 × 56 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of European Paintings Gifts, 2022.264).

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently acquired an early still life by the marquise de Grollier, a French painter largely ignored in the history of art, though Antonio Canova described her as “the Raphael of flower painting.” The object webpage went live on Friday, with a catalogue entry by David Pullins.

Charlotte Eustache Sophie de Faligny Damas, the marquise de Grollier (1741–1828), “painted flowers with great superiority,” in the words of her artist-friend Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. However, Grollier’s aristocratic status prevented her from painting professionally or from exhibiting her work to any extent. Still Life with a Vase of Flowers, Melon, Peaches, and Grapes from 1780 is one of the artist’s earliest dated works, and shows how Grollier worked through a number of technical challenges as she mastered the still life genre. The acquisition is part of The Met’s goal of expanding the narratives told in its European Paintings galleries. It will be displayed in late 2023, when the galleries are fully reinstalled upon the completion of the Skylights Project.

More information about the painting is available here»

Esther Bell Appointed Deputy Director of the Clark

Posted in museums by Editor on August 12, 2022

From the press release, via Art Daily (11 August 2022) . . .

Esther Bell, who currently serves as the Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Chief Curator of the Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has been promoted to Deputy Director. Bell retains her curatorial role and takes on added responsibilities in overseeing the work of the Clark library, supervising visitor services activities, and supporting Director’s Office initiatives.

“In the five years since she joined the Clark’s staff, Esther Bell has proven herself to be an exceptional leader and a trusted colleague, and she brings great ingenuity and creativity to all aspects of her work. I have every confidence that she will manage her additional duties with the same keen eye for detail and deep commitment to the Clark’s mission that has made her such an important part of our team,” said Olivier Meslay, Hardymon Director of the Clark.

Bell joined the Clark staff in 2017 and has since been deeply immersed in the Clark’s special exhibition program as well as managing all aspects of the care, growth, and development of the Clark’s permanent collection. Bell co-curated the 2019 exhibition Renoir: The Body, The Senses, with George T.M. Shackleford, deputy director of the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, and was heavily involved in all aspects of the Clark’s first outdoor exhibition, Ground/work, which opened in 2020. She is the co-curator of an upcoming exhibition featuring French drawings from the Bibliothèque nationale de France and is preparing a major monographic exhibition for 2024 on Guillaume Guillon-Lethière (1760–1832).

“I am honored to serve as the Clark’s Deputy Director and am deeply committed to collaborating closely with my colleagues across the Institute as we bring new projects and programs to the forefront. The Clark has many exciting plans ahead and I look forward to working with Olivier Meslay, and with the entire Clark team, as we continue the important mission of serving our communities,” said Bell.

In addition to overseeing the Clark’s curatorial staff, Bell supervises the Institute’s Departments of Education and Public Programs. She is also active in several senior management working groups and internal staff committees, including its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Advisory Group.

In 2020, Bell completed a fellowship at the Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York, a rigorous program designed to identify emerging arts leaders and provide them with the training necessary to prepare them for work in the rapidly evolving cultural climate of the twenty-first century. Bell holds a doctorate in the history of art from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, with a specialization in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European art. She earned a master’s degree from the Williams College/Clark Graduate Program in the History of Art, and a bachelor’s degree in the history of art from the University of Virginia. She completed a Fulbright Fellowship at the Musée du Louvre in 2003 and has held numerous fellowships.

Before joining the Clark’s staff, Bell served as the curator in charge of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Prior to that, she was the curator of European paintings, drawings, and sculpture at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Bell began her career in New York, serving as a research assistant and curatorial fellow at both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Museum and Library. In 2015, Apollo magazine named Bell as one of the top ten curators in North America under the age of forty.

New Exhibition | Governing the Nation from Fraunces Tavern, 1785–88

Posted in exhibitions, museums, on site by Editor on June 9, 2022

From the press release from the Fraunces Tavern Museum:

Governing the Nation from Fraunces Tavern, 1785–88
Fraunces Tavern Museum, New York, opening 22 June 2022

View of the negotiation table inside the Department of Foreign Affairs at Fraunces Tavern with map of east and west Florida in the foreground. Photo: Courtesy of Fraunces Tavern® Museum.

While Fraunces Tavern in New York City is one of the 18th century’s best-known taverns and the site of General George Washington’s famous farewell to his officers at the end of the American Revolution, it is less known that in the late 1700s, the site at 54 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan was also home to the nation’s first executive governmental building that housed three offices of the Confederation Congress. (Although Congress met in City Hall, the space was too small for the government’s departments and other office space had to be leased.) In 1785, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of War and offices of the Board of Treasury leased space at the Tavern and remained tenants there until 1788. Thanks to an extraordinary document—a cashbook that detailed the purchases for the Department of Foreign Affairs during its time at the Tavern that is now housed at the National Archives—the Department’s office will be recreated in a new permanent exhibition, Governing the Nation from Fraunces Tavern, set to open on June 22, 2022. Featuring approximately 60 objects, most of which are authentic to the period and many of which have never before been on public display, including tables, chairs, desks, maps, newspapers and other items, visitors will have the opportunity to travel back to post-colonial New York City and enter the Department of Foreign Affairs office as it appeared during a fascinating period in the nation’s history when John Jay was the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Visitors will learn about the diplomatic, military and financial challenges that all three departments faced after the Revolutionary War and how those challenges affected the formation of the U.S. Constitution.

“We are in the unique position of having access to a rare, surviving cashbook from the Department of Foreign Affairs,” explains Craig Hamilton Weaver, co-chairman of the Museum and Art Committee at Fraunces Tavern Museum. “We diligently researched each object in the cashbook and acquired authentic items to create an accurate setting that allows the visitor to step back into history. This is indeed a magnificent gift to the nation.”

After an exhaustive search to locate objects that would have been found in the original office, visitors will not only see an extraordinary assemblage of fine American and British decorative arts, many pieces of which have been donated from private collections, but they will also gain insights into an often-overlooked period in American history. Objects such as A New and Accurate Map of East and West Florida Drawn from the best Authorities, a circa 1700s map engraved by J. Prockter, London, highlighting Spanish-controlled West Florida; a rare copy of the French-language newspaper Courier de L’Europe published in London on 29 September 1786, reporting on America’s diplomatic activities with Prussia and Spain; and an array of directional and mapping compasses will help to illustrate the Department’s first two pressing matters. The Barbary Pirate Crisis, which led to the 1787 diplomatic treaty with Morocco to end pirate seizures of American vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, and negotiations with Spain regarding control of the Mississippi River will be examined in the exhibition to offer visitors insights into what it took to form a new government as well as a deep appreciation for those individuals who rose to the challenge to do so.

“We want visitors to have an immersive experience,” said Scott Dwyer, director of Fraunces Tavern Museum. “The exhibition room was designed and will be arranged to give the sense that John Jay, his under secretary, diplomats, translators, clerks and messengers might enter and resume work at any moment.”

Additionally, the office’s furnishings will illuminate the socioeconomic stratification of the staff who worked in the room. From Henry Remsen, Jr., Jay’s undersecretary for foreign affairs, to the two clerks, a part-time French translator and a messenger, the hierarchy of those employed there will be clearly seen through the caliber of each staffer’s work space in his desk, chair and even desk set; the seniority of the employee’s position correlated to the finery of his work area and accoutrements. For example, Under Secretary Remsen’s desk has a full writing set made of late 18th-century fused Sheffield plate while the clerk’s desk has a pewter inkstand and the messenger’s station has a simple stoneware inkwell. The under secretary’s desk also features examples of Chinese porcelain that would have come to New York aboard the Empress of China, the first American ship to trade with China. The ship returned to New York Harbor and distributed its cargo for local merchants the same year the Department of Foreign Affairs office opened at Fraunces Tavern. Aboard was Samuel Shaw, who would become America’s first Consul to Canton (now Guangzhou), China.

Tea Table, New York, 1770–85, mahogany (New York: Fraunces Tavern Museum, 2022.01.007, gift of Craig Hamilton Weaver; photo by John Bigelow Taylor).

Assembling as many New York- or mid-Atlantic-made furnishings as possible to be seen in Governing the Nation from Fraunces Tavern was another goal in organizing the exhibition to ensure that the room would be authentic to what would likely have been in the original space. One example to be seen at the messenger’s station is a circa 18th-century, brace-back Windsor chair made by Walter MacBride, who worked at 63 Pearl Street in the vicinity of the Tavern. Another such object is a circa 1770–85, mahogany tilt-top tea table, which was likely made in the vicinity of lower Manhattan where many furniture makers were known to have worked at the time. The table features details characteristic of New York style, such as a flat top (rather than the dish top that was popular in other regions), a vase-form pedestal with a cup and square, webbed feet, all of which are typical of New York-made furniture. Although made later than the time period for the office (circa early 19th century), a pair of brass andirons with the rare mark of New York City craftsman David Phillips is included in the exhibition to exemplify other common, locally produced objects during that period. Phillips may have been working earlier as an apprentice near the neighboring South Street Seaport. In a small yet authentic homage to the important document that guided the reconstruction of the office, a leather-bound account book with entries dating from 1765 at the Garret Abel Company of South Street in lower Manhattan, will be seen placed on the clerk’s desk, representing the Foreign Affairs cashbook that informed the object selection for the exhibition. In addition, a facsimile of a page from the actual Foreign Affairs cashbook from 1785 will hang on the wall near the visitor area.

Other featured objects in the exhibition include the negotiation table, made in New York of mahogany and pine in the Chippendale style, circa 1780. The table has carved knees and claw-and-ball legs and is composed of three heavy, solid boards. The strongly carved, original legs have fully developed shells and robust feet. Placed centrally in the room, this is where much of the official business would have been conducted, maps examined and debate likely to have occurred. Another highlight of Governing the Nation from Fraunces Tavern will be found hanging above the clerk’s desk: British engineer Bernard Ratzer’s engraved map, Plan of the City of New York in North America, published in 1776 by Jeffreys & Faden, London, commonly referred to as the ‘Ratzer Map’. One of the best depictions of the city before the Revolutionary War, it was originally issued in 1770 and was heavily influenced by a 1767 map of New York by British engineer John Montresor. The map offers a bird’s-eye view of lower Manhattan Island, eastern New Jersey, and western Brooklyn and includes the city’s important landmarks, many of which are listed in the legend or key. Additionally, an excellent example of a late-18th-century book press with the rare feature of a built-in drawer will also be seen in the office. Such pieces of equipment were used to copy the multitude of correspondence and documents generated by the office.

Governing the Nation from Fraunces Tavern is made possible through a major gift from Stanley and Elizabeth Scott who are longtime supporters of the Museum.

Fraunces Tavern Museum’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of the American Revolutionary era through public education. This mission is fulfilled through the interpretation and preservation of the Museum’s collections, landmarked buildings, and varied public programs that serve the community. Visit the rooms where General George Washington said farewell to his officers and where John Jay negotiated treaties with foreign nations. Explore six additional galleries focusing on America’s War for Independence and the preservation of early American history.

Versailles Acquires Portrait of Catherine Duchemin

Posted in museums by Editor on June 2, 2022

Press release from château de Versailles, via Art Daily (28 May 2022). . .

Unidentified artist, Portrait of Catherine Duchemin, oil on canvas (Palace of Versailles Dist RMN, C. Fouin).

The Palace of Versailles has just acquired an oil on canvas painting of Catherine Duchemin (1630–1698, the first woman to be admitted as a painter to France’s Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) in 1663. Acquiring this rare painting serves to further enrich Versailles’ collection of Académie artists’ portraits, which until now has featured men exclusively.

Catherine Duchemin was one of the rare few female painters working in 17th-century France and known to us today. She stands out from her fellow female artists in her achievement in being the first woman admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture on 14 April 1663 upon presenting a painting of flowers that prompted the academy to feel it was a “duty” and an “honour,” “in accordance with the King’s wishes […] to spread her grace among all those who excel in the arts of painting and sculpture […] without regard to differences between the sexes.”

Catherine Duchemin was born in 1630, the daughter of a Parisian painter and decorator who may well have taught her the basics of painting. At the age of 27 in 1657, she married the sculptor François Girardon. Despite a number of pioneering examples at the time, female artists were relatively rare in those days: it would take a further generation for their artistic careers to flourish in Paris. This first admission of a woman to the Académie was of paramount importance, serving as an event that would prompt change beyond Catherine Duchemin’s own life, as others followed in her footsteps up until the early 18th century.

The model’s steady gaze meets the viewer’s eyes as she readies herself to begin painting a bouquet of double-flowered anemones and poppies in a vase. The format of the canvas, the opulence of the armchair, and the elegance of the colourful, black ribbon-embellished clothing are all highly ambitious.

Although the painting is unsigned, cross-referencing it with portraits from the Palace of Versailles’ collection and notably those produced by Académie members may allow for this remarkably well-executed piece to be attributed to a named artist. Catherine Duchemin may have painted the floral composition herself, which would make this portrait the only remaining example of her work. Indeed, the artist “excelled at painting flowers” to the extent that “so real were they, you might almost smell them,” according to her first biographer, Florent Le Comte. The three flowers—one budding, the other in full bloom, and the third a poppy used to symbolise slumber—may be read as an allegory for life.

Once it has been restored, this portrait will fit seamlessly in with the exceptional collection of Académie member portraits that now hang in the Louis XIV rooms. These 17th-century artworks are invaluable testimonies to how the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture would once have worked: a key component in Louis XIV’s arts promotion policy.

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