Enfilade

Exhibition | History in Motion: Tom Judd’s Subway Mural

Posted in exhibitions, on site, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on March 2, 2021

Installation photo of Tom Judd’s Portal to Discovery mural, 2020, produced for Philadelphia’s 5th Street-Independence Hall Station on the Market-Frankford Line.

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The Woodmere Art Museum hosts a virtual opening reception with the artist this evening (Tuesday) at 7pm, ET:

History in Motion: Tom Judd’s Subway Mural
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, 27 February — 13 June 2021

In connection with the reconstruction of Philadelphia’s 5th Street-Independence Hall Station on the Market-Frankford Line, and as part of SEPTA’s Art in Transit program, artist Tom Judd was selected to create a permanent installation for the station. Titled Portal to Discovery, Judd’s mural on the eastbound and westbound platforms presents figures who contributed to the founding of the United States as well as those who fought for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. The mural includes portraits of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Philadelphians such as Frances E. W. Harper, one of the first African American women to be published in the United States, and Absalom Jones, an African American abolitionist and clergyman who founded the Free African Society with Richard Allen in 1787. Juxtaposed with these figures are familiar landscape views of Philadelphia, windows, doors, and other architectural elements of the city. The experience is one of a great historical dreamscape that poses questions and promotes civic dialogue.

The Museum’s exhibition includes preparatory studies for the mural as well as in-process photographs of the installation; the panels were fabricated by Ben Volta Studios and the installation was managed by James Shuster. The project was realized with help from graphic designer Wenlu Bao; David W. Seltzer, transit consultant and catalog producer; SEPTA; Burns Engineering, Inc.; Converse Winkler Architecture; and Marsha Moss, public art curator and consultant. The mural is an important addition to Philadelphia’s rich landscape of public art.

Judd grew up in Salt Lake City and attended the University of Utah from 1970 to 1972. He received his bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States, and is in the collections of numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and Woodmere Art Museum. Judd works in a variety of media, including painting, collage, photography, and installation.

Williamsburg Bray School Initiative Launched

Posted in on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on February 27, 2021

Established in 1760, the Bray School educated enslaved and free Black children in Williamsburg, Virginia. This 1921 photo shows the front elevation of the building, subsequently the Dudley Digges House, in its original location on Prince George Street. The school operated in the building from 1760 until 1765. It is likely the oldest extant building in the United States dedicated to the education of Black children. (Earl Gregg Swem/2010 The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation).

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Press release from Colonial Williamsburg:

A small, white building tucked away on the William & Mary campus once housed the Williamsburg Bray School, an 18th-century institution dedicated to the education of enslaved and free Black children, researchers have determined. Now, the university and Colonial Williamsburg are working together to ensure current and future generations learn about the complex history of what is likely the oldest extant building in the United States dedicated to the education of Black children—and the stories of those who were part of it. The new partnership calls for relocation of the Bray-Digges House to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, where it would become the 89th original structure restored by the foundation. It also establishes the Williamsburg Bray School Initiative, a joint venture of the university and foundation to use the site as a focal point for research, scholarship, and dialogue regarding the complicated story of race, religion, and education in Williamsburg and in America.

Dendrochronology analysis of the building’s wood framing in 2020 by Colonial Williamsburg researchers confirms that the structure at 524 Prince George St. once housed Williamsburg’s Bray School, an institution that educated many of the town’s Black children from 1760 to 1774. Suggested for establishment in Williamsburg by Benjamin Franklin, the Bray School’s mission was to impart Christian education to Black children and for students to accept enslavement as divinely ordained.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was scheduled to join the Williamsburg community for a special event at 5pm Thursday commemorating the history of the Bray School, its rediscovery, and plans for site and interpretation. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, the event was not open to the general public to attend in person but was available virtually via live stream.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of this discovery, of the robust history that will be uncovered through this partnership between William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg” said William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe. “So much of our history as a nation has gone unrecorded—the history of African Americans, their oppression, and resistance. By studying the legacy of the Bray School students, we will uncover and illuminate some of the most important impacts of education in the story of America.”

Colonial Williamsburg’s initial work to restore and interpret the Bray School’s historic structure is possible in part thanks to a grant of $400,000 from the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation. Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg, said the project is a critical step toward fostering a broader understanding of Americans’ shared history. The grant from the Clark Foundation will allow Colonial Williamsburg to relocate the structure to the Historic Area, and additional funds will be raised to complete the restoration and interpretive work.

“Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary’s partnership to research, restore, and interpret the original structure of the Bray School is critical to our ongoing work to uncover our common past and expand our understanding of America’s founding,” Fleet said. “We’re very grateful to the Clark Foundation, whose generous support makes this effort possible. We invite guests, the community, and the nation to join us as we continue to pursue and present a more complete story of all who lived in Williamsburg during the Revolutionary era.”

A Virginia Department of Historic Resources marker commemorating the school’s 18th-century location was unveiled at Brown Hall, a William & Mary residence hall, in early 2019, and Rowe noted that the new joint venture aligns with other William & Mary initiatives that address the institution’s historical involvement with slavery. Construction is to begin this year on Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved, a monument dedicated to the enslaved individuals who labored at William & Mary, while the Lemon Project is a scholarly and educational initiative that investigates slavery and its legacies— and particularly William & Mary’s involvement in the practice. The Lemon Project takes its name from Lemon, an enslaved worker at William & Mary.

Jody Allen, the Robert Francis Engs Director of the Lemon Project, explained that the Bray School legacy has long been a part of the Lemon Project’s programming. Identification and engagement of descendants of Bray School scholars are among the priorities of the Williamsburg Bray School Initiative. Allen was recently appointed by Governor Northam to Virginia’s Commission to Study Slavery and Subsequent De Jure and De Facto Racial and Economic Discrimination. She said she expects the Bray School Initiative to allow scholars to follow more closely the intriguing line of evidence of a Bray School education having influence that is deep and wide among Williamsburg’s Black population.

“When we talk about the history of slavery and the history of the African American experience at William & Mary, we include the Bray School,” Allen said. “We believe the Bray School not only impacted the children who actually attended the school, but it impacted their descendants. We believe very strongly that they went on to share their knowledge with brothers, sisters, neighbors.”

William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg are both neighbors, and frequent collaborators. The Bray School has been the object of numerous research initiatives focusing on archival as well as material-culture sources aimed at expanding the collective understanding of history, including the joint archaeological excavation of the historic Bray-Digges House site at Prince George and Boundary streets. Currently, the university and foundation are partners in work led by the city’s Historic First Baptist Church to research and interpret its first permanent site on South Nassau Street. The Bray School partnership will facilitate continued research and interpretation, and a deeper examination of a number of aspects of history through the lens of the Bray School, including perspectives from families whose children attended the school and the motivations of white slaveowners who sent them there.

“Our knowledge of history is not static; it continues to reveal itself through critical work like the investigation of the Bray-Digges House,” said Stephen Seals, a Colonial Williamsburg interpreter, program development manager and community liaison. “The Bray School represents another complex chapter in our nation’s story, and its restoration and interpretation will be critical to our community’s work to foster a more complete understanding of our shared history.”

Nicole Brown, an actor-interpreter and scholar who portrays Colonial Williamsburg Nation Builder Ann Wager, the white teacher at the Williamsburg Bray School, is also a graduate student in William & Mary’s American Studies Program. Currently, Brown is studying the history and impact of the Bray Schools in Williamsburg and beyond. Her work has taken her to Oxford’s Weston Library, where she dove into some 8,000 pages of records of the Associates of Dr. Bray, the London organization that established or tried to establish Bray Schools throughout the New World in Philadelphia, Nova Scotia, and the Bahamas. Brown’s work with Colonial Williamsburg is supported by the Mary and Donald Gonzales Field Experience Fund.

“This research gave me a great deal of insight into Ann Wager and her students. You can learn a great deal about the school based on the books she used at the school,” Brown said. “Quite frankly, you learn a lot about the pro-slavery ideology of the school when you see how many of the books are extremely rooted in systemic racism.”

Julie Richter, a lecturer in William & Mary’s Department of History and the director of the National Institute of American History & Democracy (NIAHD), itself a partnership of William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg, said there are surviving student lists from only three years: 1762, 1765, and 1769.

“I’m eternally optimistic that there will be a few more lists that someone will find in time,” Richter said. “But right now, we have these three slices in time to try to tease out what students were at the school and who sent them.”

Brown and Richter said slaveowners had varied motivations for enrolling enslaved children. Literacy and math skill increased the auction value of any enslaved individual, while Brown pointed out that a Bray School education increased a person’s usefulness to the slaveowner, in particular one who operated a commercial establishment. Students likely also had varying intentions for use of their education, often in direct contradiction with their owners’, Brown noted.

The first dots establishing the Bray-Digges link were unearthed and connected by Terry Meyers, Chancellor Professor of English, Emeritus, at William & Mary. Meyers was reading a memoir by a local resident when he came across a reference to an 18th-century cottage that in 1930 had been moved down Prince George Street from the corner of Prince George and North Boundary streets. He visited Colonial Williamsburg’s John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, where there was a file on the building.

“From that, I was able to go back and look at what is now 524 Prince George St.,” Meyers said. “And I realized that if you look at that structure and erase the two additions on the right and the left and change the roofline from a Dutch colonial roof to a proper cottage roof, you actually do have an 18th-century cottage.”

Researchers led by Matt Webster, Colonial Williamsburg’s executive director of architectural preservation and research, discovered the reconfigured roof line that Meyers had noticed and a window sash that dates to the original construction date.

“Our analysis of the structure’s oldest elements conclusively places the timber’s harvest between the winter of 1759–60 and the spring of 1760, with the establishment of the Williamsburg Bray School in 1760,” Webster said. “That, combined with existing evidence of the Bray School’s historical location on Prince George Street, makes a compelling case that this is the original structure, and the building still has a great deal more to teach us.”

Meyers found that the Bray School operated in the Digges building from its 1760 founding until 1765, when the school was moved, possibly out to Capitol Landing Road.

Meyers noted that “education is almost invariably subversive.” Like Allen, he said there is evidence that students at the Bray School took their literacy skills back home and spread them around.

“If you are taught to read the Bible,” Meyers said. “you will be able to read other things. Once you educate people, they are better equipped to think critically.”

The timeframe for relocation of the Bray-Digges building is yet to be determined, and Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary are considering a number of potential sites. The building most recently housed offices for William & Mary’s Department of Military Science and has been known as Prince George House.

Napoleon’s Barge, Newly Restored, Unveiled in Brest

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on December 18, 2020

Le Canot impérial de Napoléon, 1810, as installed at Brest, December 2020.

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Unveiled last week at the Musée de la Marine in Brest, as reported in the press release, via CNN (14 December 2020). . .

A spectacular imperial barge built for Napoleon Bonaparte has been unveiled at the Naval Museum in Brest, France, following a restoration project. Ten specialist restorers worked on the vessel, which was constructed in 1810, for two months prior to the opening of the new display on Friday [11 December 2020], according to a press release from the maritime museum. Visitors can appreciate the 62-foot barge from all angles, thanks to glass bays underneath and a mirror that hangs over the top.

Napoleon … ordered the secretive construction of the imperial barge in spring 1810, and it was first used to ferry him around during a visit to the French naval fleet at Antwerp later that year.

The original barge, which had fairly muted decorative elements including an eagle on the prow, was kept in Brest from 1814 onward. The more elaborate elements we see today—a figure of Neptune on the prow, figures at the bow carrying imperial weapons, and the large gold crown supported by four angels on the roof—were added in 1858 prior to a visit from Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.

In 1943, the barge was moved from Brest to Paris under the protection of the occupying German forces to form part of the new Navy Museum. However, after an eight-day train journey, it was discovered that the doors of its new home, the Palais de Chaillot, were too small to fit the barge. It took two years to make a large gap in the wall of the building, and the barge was finally installed in August 1945.

In 2018, the barge was returned to Brest when the Paris museum closed for renovation.

Jean-Yves Besselièvre, manager of the Naval Museum in Brest, said the barge is one of the museum’s treasures and the only vessel of its kind preserved in France. The restoration is special, he said, because the barge wasn’t built to last a long time: “There is in fact a certain fragility to the object, but it has been perfectly managed by the restorers… and by the hauliers.”

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More information on the larger renovation of the Musée national de la Marine in Paris (scheduled to be completed in 2022) and the institution’s vision for the future is available from this press release.

The Decorative Arts Trust Announces Four Failey Grants

Posted in books, fellowships, on site by Editor on December 13, 2020

Hunter House, ca. 1748. Courtesy the Preservation Society of Newport County.

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Press release from The Decorative Arts Trust (11 December 2020). . .

The Decorative Arts Trust congratulates the New-York Historical Society, the Preservation Society of Newport County, and authors Adrienne Childs and Iris Moon on receiving Failey Grants. The Failey Grant program provides support for noteworthy research, exhibition, publication, and conservation projects through the Dean F. Failey Fund, named in honor of the Trust’s late Governor. Preference is given to projects that employ or are led by emerging professionals in the museum field. The Trust increased the amount of funding available this cycle to $25,000 in recognition of the acute need for resources to underwrite important endeavors.

• New-York Historical Society will open the groundbreaking exhibition Black Dolls in 2022.
• The Preservation Society of Newport County in RI is planning a comprehensive reinterpretation of Hunter House.
• Adrienne Childs is finalizing the manuscript of Ornamental Blackness, to be published by Yale University Press in 2023.
• Iris Moon is concluding an analysis of the decorative arts of the French Revolution that will result in the publication of Luxury of Terror by the Pennsylvania State Press in 2022.

Topsy-turvy Doll, United States, 1890–1905, textile and paint (New-York Historical Society, Gift of Katharine Prentis Murphy, 1961).

In 2022, the New-York Historical Society will open the groundbreaking exhibition Black Dolls, which examines handmade Black dolls as both artistic expressions and windows into critical issues of race, gender, identity, and the legacy of slavery. Drawing from the collection of Deborah Neff, the show will present more than 100 home-made cloth dolls created largely by African American women between 1850 and 1940. Co-curated by Margaret K. Hofer, Vice President and Museum Director, and Dominique Jean-Louis, Project Historian, the exhibition will immerse visitors into the world of dolls, doll play, and doll making.

The Preservation Society of Newport County in Rhode Island is planning a comprehensive reinterpretation of Hunter House, the oldest property in the Society’s collection and long a landmark of Newport’s 18th-century prominence. The project aims to expand the public’s knowledge of the house through an overhauled interpretive presentation for onsite and online visitors. The investigation is led by research fellows Catherine Doucette and MaryKate Smolenski under the guidance of Leslie B. Jones, Director of Museum Affairs and Chief Curator. The team will address the ethics, scholarship, and restoration of histories and voices missing from the historic site. The new visitor experience will present an inclusive story that details Newport’s complex role in the economies of slavery and colonialism.

Clock Case, Paris, ca. 1785 (Washington, DC: Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973).

Adrienne Childs is finalizing the manuscript of Ornamental Blackness, to be published by Yale University Press in 2023. The book examines the long and complex tradition of the ornamental Black figure in European art and will create a framework for understanding how the decorative arts figure into the larger discourse of representing Blacks in European visual culture. Scant critical attention has been paid to this material, and the publication will have great value to museums, historic houses, and academia. Childs is an Associate of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Iris Moon, Assistant Curator of European ceramics and glass at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is concluding an analysis of the decorative arts of the French Revolution that will result in the publication of Luxury of Terror by the Pennsylvania State Press in 2022. Moon’s research explores the production and circulation of French luxury after the death of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and how makers with strong ties to the monarchy found ways to survive the Terror, the most radical and violent phase of the Revolution. The publication will expand the study of French decorative arts by drawing attention to the creative and experimental forms of luxury that emerged during a turbulent period of history.

Dihl et Guérhard, possibly painted by Jean-Baptiste Coste, Pair of Vases with Landscapes at Sea and on Land, Paris, ca. 1797–98, hard-paste porcelain with enamel decoration and gilding (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wrightsman Fund, 2014).

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The Decorative Arts Trust is a non-profit organization that promotes and fosters the appreciation and study of the decorative arts through: exchanging information through domestic and international programming; collaborating and partnering with museums and preservation organizations; and underwriting internships, research grants, and scholarships for graduate students and young professionals. Learn more about the Trust at decorativeartstrust.org or by contacting thetrust@decorativeartstrust.org.

SAL’s Fight to Stay at Burlington House

Posted in on site by Editor on November 28, 2020

From the Society of Antiquaries:

The Society of Antiquaries of London has launched a campaign to contest the rapidly escalating rental rates set by Government, in order to remain at Burlington House—its home for over 140 years.

A hub of discovery for the UK, the building houses thousands of unique artefacts, books, and works of art spanning centuries of human history, under the guardianship of the Society of Antiquaries. The result of nearly 300 years of acquisition, people come from all over the world to study the collections at Burlington House, where enthusiasts meet experts, and ideas are shaped in the Library and lecture room. From Burlington House, the Society runs regular public, educational and academic events, gives grants for research and conservation, and contributes to the formulation of public policy.

Since the 1870s, the Society has been based at Burlington House under a bespoke Government arrangement which has delivered immense public value as a hub of cultural and scientific discovery. Due to a change in Government accounting rules, the Society is now being effectively forced out because of rapidly escalating rents; already rent has increased by 3,100% since 2012.

After eight years spent attempting to seek a fair arrangement behind closed doors, the Society has now gone public to encourage the Government to recognise the immense value of the Society, its library and collections at Burlington House, and to find an affordable arrangement for the Society to remain.

By continuing an affordable tenancy for the Society at Burlington House, the Government can enable a new era of public engagement with our heritage. The Society is already making progress towards modernising to ensure the nation’s history that the Society represents both reflects and reaches a more diverse public—progress which has been slowed by the ongoing uncertainty over its future. Resolving this looming threat would mean the Society is able to continue its plans to further increase public engagement, and generate income which can be reinvested in exhibitions and activities in communities across the UK.

With the Society’s precious collection and public value activities there are options for the Government to recognise this value against that of the long-term tenancy. A 2019 assessment by PwC estimated that 78% (£4.2 million) of the total gross value delivered each year by the Society of Antiquaries (£5.4 million) would be at risk if the Society is forced to relocate. According to this, the Government is set to lose 44 times what it would gain through the current agreement (approximately £120,000 in income per year compared to £5.4 million in public value).

The uncertainty of the Society’s tenure has already restricted its contributions to society over the last eight years, with investment in the building and public engagement activities shelved, and resources instead directed at quietly appealing to the Government to agree an affordable solution.

Without resolution, relocation represents a major threat to the continued existence of the Society in its current form. Leaving Burlington House would require the prohibitively costly process of recreating the infrastructure to house its unique collections elsewhere, while moving fragile historical items en masse is a huge and extremely costly undertaking in itself. As a self-supporting charity, the Society is under enormous pressure to raise funds for alternative premises to house its unrivalled library, unique archive and historically significant museum collections where they would remain safe and ensure they are accessible to academics, students, and the historically curious public.

An almost unthinkable yet looming scenario is that the Society may have to sell items from its collection to fund new premises in order to appropriately house the rest of its artefacts, even outside of a major city. In such a scenario, it is possible the UK may see items of huge historical importance go overseas, and they may no longer be available for research or education purposes. If you wish to get in contact with us, please email saveBH@sal.org.uk. For press enquiries, please email saveBH@sal.org.uk. To follow our story on social media please follow the hashtag #SocAntiquaries. Click here for FAQs.

What You Can Do

1  Write to your MP
You can write to your local MP to ask for their support for the Society’s continued residency in Burlington House.

2  Raise awareness on social media
You can help to get the message out by using the hashtag #SocAntiquaries on social media channels. There are free-to-use images available here including Burlington house and our priceless collection of historical artefacts.

3  Share your Society story and submit a testimonial to be published on our website
We would love to hear your stories of how the Society has contributed to your interests, supported your research, or informed your thinking. Share your testimonial on what the Society means to you, and why you believe it should remain at Burlington House.

Exhibition | Turner and the Thames: Five Paintings

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on March 12, 2020

I noted here at Enfilade back in 2014 that plans were established to preserve Turner’s house, but I realize that I never followed up. Turner’s House opened to the public in 2017 after a £2.4 million restoration, and it’s now hosting its first exhibition of original oil paintings by the artist. CH

Turner and the Thames: Five Paintings
Sandycombe Lodge, Twickenham, 10 January — 30 April 2020 (extended from the original March closing date)

Turner’s House Trust are thrilled to announce their first exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s original oil paintings in the house he designed for himself. Thanks to a generous loan from Tate, the exhibition opened on January 10th and will run until 30th April 2020. Turner and the Thames: Five Paintings features rare oil sketches, seldom seen by the public. The works have been chosen for their depictions of scenes close to his house near the river and feature riparian landscapes from Isleworth to Windsor. The Thames enticed Turner to buy a plot of land in Twickenham on which to build a retreat for him and his father in the 1800s, and he designed the villa so that he could glimpse the river from his bedroom window. Turner spent a lot of time on the Thames both working and fishing, keeping his catch in two ponds in what was then a large, country garden.

The exhibition is included in the price of general admission to the house. Special tours may also be purchased for up to ten people for £120 and the group will have the house to themselves. These tours would make excellent presents for special occasions for friends and family. If you are interested in booking on of these tours please contact Ricky Pound at housedirector@turnershouse.org.

ASECS 2020, Saint Louis Art Museum Workshop

Posted in conferences (to attend), on site, opportunities by Editor on December 16, 2019

John Greenwood, Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam, ca.1752–58, oil on bed ticking, 38 × 75 inches
(Saint Louis Art Museum)

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In conjunction with the 2020 meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies in St. Louis, 19–21 March, Amy Torbert and Brittany Luberda are organizing a pre-conference workshop at the Saint Louis Art Museum. A draft program for the conference is now available from ASECS, and I’ll post sessions of particular relevance for art historians here after the new year. Conference registration details are also now available. CH

Introduction to Saint Louis Art Museum Eighteenth-Century Collections
Wednesday, 18 March 2020, 1:00–5:00pm

Applications due by 31 December 2019

The pre-conference workshop will consist of dialogues among curators, field experts, and attendees on topics including global encounter, intermateriality, politics of empire, social histories, production processes, and curating the eighteenth century. These conversations will be held in the galleries in front of highlights such as colonial silver, European porcelain, Chinese bronzes and exportware, Peruvian textiles, and paintings including John Greenwood’s Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam (ca.1752–58) and François-André Vincent’s Arria and Paetus (1784). The event will include the opportunity to study works from storage rarely on view and to visit the Print Study Room.

Scholars and curators of all disciplines are invited to register. As numbers are limited due to spatial constraints, please apply by sending a brief email describing your interest, along with any questions you may have, to eighteenthcenturyatslam@gmail.com by 31 December 2019. Confirmed participants will be contacted by the workshop organizers, Amy Torbert (Saint Louis Art Museum) and Brittany Luberda (Baltimore Museum of Art), by 20 January 2020.

The workshop will be held at the Museum on Wednesday, 18 March 2020, from 1:00–5:00pm. Participants must arrange their own transportation. The Museum is a 30-minute drive from the airport and a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Contact information will be provided to the participants to facilitate sharing of Uber, Lyft or other transportation.

Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days’ on St. Paul’s Dome

Posted in anniversaries, exhibitions, on site by Editor on December 1, 2019

A reproduction of William Blake’s The Ancient of Days from 1827 projected by Tate Britain onto St Paul’s Cathedral in London, 2019
(Photo by Alex Wojcik for Tate)

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There’s one more night to see Blake’s Ancient of Days projected onto the London skyline; the Tate Britain exhibition is on view until February 2; from the Tate press release (28 November 2019). . .

William Blake’s final masterpiece will illuminate the iconic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the artist’s birthday. The dramatic illustration The Ancient of Days (1827) was described by Blake as “the best I have ever finished” and will be visible across London this weekend. Tate Britain is currently staging the UK’s largest survey of works by Blake for a generation and has collaborated with St Paul’s Cathedral—home to the most visited Blake memorial in the UK—to recreate his vision on a monumental scale

Now renowned as a poet, Blake also had grand ambitions as a visual artist, proposing vast frescos that were never realised. Living and working in London for most of his life, the artist imagined adorning the walls of churches and public buildings in the city. The cityscape of London, dominated by St Paul’s Cathedral, inspired Blake’s powerful artworks and writing. His well-known poem Holy Thursday 1789 refers to “the high dome of Pauls.” Created as a frontispiece for the 1794 prophetic book Europe a Prophecy, The Ancient of Days is on loan to the exhibition at Tate Britain from the collection of the Whitworth, The University of Manchester and has become one of Blake’s best-known images. Through projections, Tate Britain will re-envision the small yet imposing illustration on an awe-inspiring scale, more than two centuries later.

Shaped by his personal struggles in a period of political terror and oppression, Blake’s radical beliefs meant he received little recognition in his own lifetime. November 28, 2019 would have been his 262nd birthday. In the almost two centuries since his death, Blake has become one of Britain’s most beloved artists and an inspiration to generations of musicians, writers, artists, and performers worldwide. Buried in relative obscurity in a common grave, the memorial to William Blake now installed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral is visited by thousands each year.

Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, said: “Blake was an artist of gigantic imagination and vision, who has fired the creative ambition of generations. Seeing Blake’s work on a huge scale on this iconic building restores a sense of his towering presence in British culture.”

Paula Gooder, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: “St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to continue our partnership with Tate by hosting this projection of The Ancient of Days onto the dome of the Cathedral. This collaboration is made even more special because of the memorial in our Crypt to William Blake. We hope that the projection of this iconic image will be an inspiration to all who see it.”

The projections will run from 28 November until 1 December 2019, from 16.30 until 21.00 each evening. The project has been realised by Tate in collaboration with St Paul’s Cathedral, projection partners EMF Technology Ltd, and with the kind support of the Whitworth Art Gallery, The City of London, City of London School, and animation director Sam Gainsborough. The exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain is curated by Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon, Curator, British Art 1790–1850.

Reopened: August the Strong’s State Apartments and Porcelain Cabinet

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on October 3, 2019

Audience Room of the State Apartments of Dresden’s Residenzschloss (28 September 2019)
Photo by Oliver Killig

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Press release (26 September 2019) from the SKD:

August the Strong’s Royal State Apartments (Paraderäume) and the Porcelain Cabinet in the Turmzimmer (Tower Room) were opened on Saturday, 28 Saturday 2019, marking the culmination of the restoration of Dresden’s Residenzschloss, which started in 1986. The prestigious suite of rooms in the west wing—conceived by the Elector-King personally as a ceremonial centrepiece of his residence—takes visitors to the pinnacle of ostentatious princely splendour on their tour of the museum palace.

Together with original artworks from several of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s museums, the painstakingly restored rooms form a unique ensemble of museum-grade rooms. The harmonious interplay of wall textiles, paintings, precious ornamental furniture and porcelains, magnificent robes of state, and August the Strong’s royal insignia let visitors experience both the standard of European artistry in the early 18th century and the ceremonial court culture.

Porcelain Cabinet in the Tower Room of Dresden’s Residenzschloss (28 September 2019); photo by Oliver Killig.

August the Strong opened the State Apartments exactly 300 years ago, in September 1719, to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Friedrich August and daughter of the Emperor and Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria. The construction and craft works continued from March 1717 to 2 September 1719—the day on which the Habsburgian daughter-in-law of August the Strong and his wife Christiane Eberhardine was welcomed in the new staterooms. Not only were the nine rooms of the State Apartments built in the west wing to mark this occasion, the entire second floor of the palace was renovated. The resulting ceremonial, prestigious suite began at the Englische Treppe (English Staircase) and led on through the Riesensaal (Hall of the Giants) and the Turmzimmer (Tower Room) to the west wing.

It housed the most important ceremonial and splendid rooms in the residence, enabling the Prince-Elector of Saxony to prove that his palace was truly the palace of a king, rivalling the residences of other European kings and the Emperor. The interiors grow increasingly luxurious from room to room: Whether in the corner state room to the two antechambers, to the audience chamber and the state bedroom, the rooms seemed to outdo one another in the number and splendour of the candelabras, wall textiles and furniture. This prestigious suite combined touches of the ceremonial style of the French royal court at Versailles with that at the imperial court of Vienna, whereby the state bedroom in the Viennese tradition was used as the most private ceremonial venue, and not for the opulent lever, the morning reception, as was the case under Louis XIV.

Johann Joachim Kaendler, Johann Friedrich Eberlein, Elementvase Luft aus dem fünfteiligen Satz der Elementvasen, Meissen, 1742
(Porzellansammlung der SKD; photo by Adrian Sauer).

In 1997, the Saxon State Government decided that the ceremonial rooms, which had been completely destroyed in the Second World War, should be rebuilt as far as possible. The present meticulous restoration of the rooms to their historic, 18th-century condition is an immense achievement by Staatsbetriebe Sächsische Immobilien- und Baumanagement (Saxon Real Estate and Construction Management, SIB) and many regional and international artists and craftspeople. Comprehensive records allowed the rooms to be restored as closely as possible to the original. For instance, Louis de Silvestre’s monumental ceiling paintings were recreated based on colour photographs taken in 1942/1944. The preserved baroque ornamental textiles of the audience chamber with pilasters adorned in intricate gold embroidery and trim were restored and the crimson silk velvet was reproduced to cover the entire wall surface with ‘thread-true’ recreations based on a fragment. Lost tapestries were replicated based on comparable examples. Overall, 300 craft firms from around Europe that have preserved the traditional skills worked together on this project.

Thanks to timely removal for safekeeping, many of the precious items of furniture from the early 18th century and the following decades, which were in the ceremonial rooms’ inventory, were preserved. They had been stored by the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) since the end of the Second World War: the throne, rare silver furniture from Augsburg, French ornamental furniture using the Boulle marquetry technique. Paintings and overdoors by Louis de Silvestre from Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister now complete the current restoration project. As surviving historical pieces, the preserved originals tell the tale of the original interior and the rooms’ eventful past.

In four other rooms that, like the restored State Apartments, are in the west wing, exhibits from the Rüstkammer (Armoury) showcase the overwhelming splendour with which August the Strong staged his own persona and power. The two retirades (private refuges)—a suite of rooms leading from the corner state room to the state bedroom—house an exhibition on the ‘Royal Wardrobe’ of the Elector-King. The robes of state reflect his biography and significant events in his reign. Precious royal baroque fashions from the baroque period share space with August the Strong’s favourite weapons and diplomatic gifts received from the kings of Europe and the Czar. The picture cabinets located behind the audience chamber are dedicated to his royal majesty August the Strong and his son Augustus III. Besides the royal insignia of the Saxon-Polish union, the figurine dressed in the coronation regalia of 1697 with the face of August the Strong from the life mask of 1704 is particularly impressive. Other royal artefacts, like the Saxon electoral hat and the ceremonial royal flags and swords of Poland and Lithuania, reveal the European dimension of the linked Saxon and Polish monarchy.

The route to the State Apartments also takes visitors through the 100 m² Turmzimmer (Tower Room) in Hausmannsturm of the Residenzschloss. At the time of the wedding, August the Strong displayed his state treasury in the form of the exceptionally precious monumental silver vessels on pedestals and wall shelves there. In the 1730s under August III, the silver buffet was turned into a porcelain cabinet that went on to serve as a prominent showroom for the electoral and royal porcelain collection for 200 years. Now hosting a selection of porcelain, the recreated room has regained its historical function. It houses unique masterpieces from the manufactory in Meissen, like the Johann Joachim Kaendler’s outstanding, highly sculptural vases depicting the elements, returning to their original home after more than 75 years in the depot.

Eva-Maria Stange, State Minister for Higher Education, Research and the Arts: “Restoring the State Apartments to their resplendent former glory, gives the Residenzschloss its soul back. Visitors to the rooms get a great impression of life in the royal court. We must also remember that the principality and its prosperity were built on the work and hardships of the miners who extracted the silver that made Saxony rich, among other things. Even at that time, the economy, science and the arts stimulated one another, creating the admirable halo effect that is still maintained today.”

Marion Ackermann, Director General of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden: “When opened in 1719, August the Strong’s State Apartments and the Tower Room were the expression of an axiomatically European understanding of culture. Influences from many European countries inspired the efforts to attain perfection and outstanding artistic achievements. 300 years later, we can experience this phenomenon again: It was only the cooperation of many extraordinary Saxon and European craftspeople, artists and restorers, who still master the ancient techniques at a high level that made restoration of the State Apartments, and the Tower Room as a Porcelain Cabinet possible. With respect and admiration, I would like to thank everyone who worked on the project under the guidance of Staatsbetrieb Sächsisches Immobilien- und Baumanagement and collaborated to complete this unique architectural masterpiece.”

Dirk Syndram, Director of Grünes Gewölbe and Rüstkammer: “Nowhere else can you feel as close to August the Strong as in the State Apartments. And no other rule of baroque Europe left behind so many, so magnificent and so personal material testimonies to his time. These many originals make the splendour with which August the Strong surrounded himself directly tangible.”

Exhibition | City Women in the 18th Century

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on September 25, 2019

From the exhibition:

City Women in the 18th Century: An Outdoor Exhibition of Women Traders in Cheapside, London
Cheapside, London, 21 September — 18 October 2019

Curated by Amy Erickson

In the 18th century, many women worked in luxury manufacturing and sales in the Cheapside area between St Paul’s and the Royal Exchange. They were not only employed to make the clothing, jewellery, prints, fans, trunks and furniture on sale; they also ran some of the businesses. These women, all of whom were members of London’s livery companies, employed thousands more in their trades. Some of these elite employers produced highly ornamental trade cards to advertise their business. These represent only a fraction of all the business women trading over the 18th century. Others we know of through their printed products (e.g., Sarah Ashton, fanmaker), or an insurance policy (Eleanor Coade, merchant), or livery company records (Martha Gurney, printer).

Most of the surviving business cards are in two collections in the British Museum. The first collector was Sarah Sophia Banks (1744–1818). The sister of Joseph Banks, who collected items of natural history, she collected material relating to the social history of her own day. The second collector was Ambrose Heal (1872–1959), arts and crafts furniture designer and heir to Heal’s furniture shop which had been established in Tottenham Court Road since the 1850s. This outdoor exhibition, over a 700-metre trail, explores the important role of women in commerce and manufacturing in 18th-century City.

Amy Louise Erickson, the curator of the exhibition, is Reader in Economic History at the University of Cambridge, and the author of Women and Property in Early Modern England and articles on women trading in 18th-century London. Her current project is reconstructing female labour force participation in early modern Britain. She co-directs the ‘Occupational Structure of England and Wales, 1379–1911’ research programme at the Cambridge Group for the History of Population & Social Structure.

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In addition to the virtual exhibition, organized around eight sites, the exhibition includes the following programming:

Mary Owen, jeweller and goldsmith, printed her card as a widow in the mid-18th century. Her husband (dead by 1745) had also been a goldsmith, but was a member of the Fishmongers’ Company; as his widow, Owen traded as a member by courtesy.

Talk | City Women in the 18th Century
London Metropolitan Archives, 17 September, 14.00

Dr Amy Erickson, from the Faculty of History at the University Cambridge, will be discussing her exhibition, City Women in the 18th Century, at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Guided Tours
Paternoster Square, 29 September, 10.30; and 6 October, 15.00

Join Dr Amy Erickson on a tour of the exhibition. Booking required (29 September or 6 October).

Talk | Women in the Luxury Trades
Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell, 19 November, 18.00

Learn about the women who traded as goldsmiths, silversmiths, milliners, fan-makers, and printers along the length of Cheapside, from Paternoster Square to the Royal Exchange, through their ornately engraved business cards. Further details.