Tag Archives: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cabinet of Curiosities

Inside of view 3

The Augsburg Art Cabinet virtual tour is a featured item in this week’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

inside the Augsburg cabinet

The Museum at Gustavianum developed an exciting interactive view of this historic masterpiece, referred to  as the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Such high praise raises expectations to the extreme, although well deserved.  Not only is the cabinet one of the best preserved pieces of 17th century antiquity, the collected contents survived intact, providing a microcosm of the day and showcasing how these cabinets were more than a storage area for the eccentric odds of a collector.

outside doors of view 3

The items range from a bird house and miniature cannon, to a complete toilet set.  Each side of the cabinet is functional, gaming tables appear in hidden drawers, and religious paintings reveal personal worship items including a small porcelain ring painted with images inside the cylinder and out.  The interactive features allow the viewer to open drawers and remove covers, exposing these private items.

outside cover of cabinet 2

inside the Augsburg cabinet 2

mirrortoilet stand

The website requires a Flash player download, but is well worth the time to view these pieces and learn more about the history behind this cabinet.

The first story I want to share in this week’s cabinet comes from the Wall Street JournalJanet Stephens, hairdresser by day, intrepid researcher and historian by night, morphing into hairdo archaeologist.  Amateur scholarship, once frowned upon in academic circles, is now considered groundbreaking, as teaching methods and rote memorization of dates become learning styles of the past.

Roman Empress Julia Doman at the Walters Art Museum

Ms. Stephens’ story begins at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where she observed the bust of Roman Empress Julia Domna.   The hairstyle amazed her, but recreating the gravity defying design proved a daunting task, and she turned to the history books for more information.  Dismissing the scholarly belief that these hairstyles were wigs, she discovered that sewing the braids together produced the correct results.  The rabbit hole of research revealed a Latin term, “acus” which was misapplied in the context of hairdressing.  The word has several meanings: a single prong hair pin or a needle and thread.

Ms. Stephens shared her research with the Journal of Roman Archaeology and was published in 2008.  The only other article published by the Journal by a non-scholar was written by a soldier who discovered an unknown Roman fort in Iraq.  Drawing on these practical experiences can break new ground in the field of research.  I am thrilled the view is changing to accept more research from unconventional sources.  Dismissing these research efforts does a disservice to the advancement of history in the modern day.

Tesla Letterhead

Nikola Tesla knew the value of his inventions, and the value of a dramatic letterhead to reflect these achievements.  A letter to JP Morgan, Esq. in 1916 commanded the attention of the famous financier and philanthropist.  The contents discussed the war and the manufacture of nitric acid through electrical processes, but the statement of the company through these images has a lasting legacy.  The page was shared by the Morgan Library and Museum, where a seemingly endless archive awaits the virtual tourist.

skylight of FLW house

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has furthered their pursuit of a virtual museum through short films at its new site, 82nd & Fifth.  Episode two offers an in depth view of the Frank Lloyd Wright house outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  A lake view home designed with open space far ahead of its early 20th century time frame.  Take a walk through the living area, feel the expanse of the room and the light flooding through floor to ceiling stained glass windows.  These two minute stories will be featured twice a week, expanding the vision of the Met through technology.

FLW living room

mount athos cross

The Athos Cross at the Courtland Museum is a technical virtuosity from the celebrated monastic community of Athos.  A center of miniature carving between the 16th and 18th centuries, the craft is still practiced by the monks of Athos today.  The perfect spelling of the inscriptions accompanying each scene suggests the cultured environment where the cross was produced.  Dated to the 18th century, the provenance has recently been revised because of the size, the added elements of the edges and the absence of metal, seeming to point to a 17th century date of execution.  Bequeathed to the Courtland in 1966, the cross did not go on display until 2012.  The cross is double sided, with a separate group of carvings represented on each, continuing a biblical story in chronological order.  The Courtland provides an interactive experience with this treasure, with each tiny scene filling the screen with detail and surprising depth.

raising of lazurus

A Paris apartment, untouched for 70 years, the treasures waiting like Sleeping Beauty to be discovered.  The owner, Miss de Florian, left Paris at the outbreak of WWII, never to return.  Seven decades later she passed away at the age of 91, her rent dutifully paid each month.  Her heirs left with the unenviable job of opening that door, revealing the time capsule.

Marthe de Florian

A further twist to the story is the discovery of this painting, a very important piece of art history, along with stacks of old love letters tied with ribbon.  The painting was by Giovanni Boldini, a member of the Belle Époque.  The woman in the picture is Ms. de Florian’s grandmother, Marthe de Florian, an actress and French socialite of the Belle Époque.  Despite Boldini being married, she was his muse and lover, the ribbon bound letters a testament of their relationship.

Time capsule apartment

Finding such a treasure after nearly a century is a collector’s dream, perhaps the family will publish the letters to put a final chapter to the story.

Lastly, I am excited to share a new show on Starz coming in April, Da Vinci’s Demons. The story is taken from the diaries of Da Vinci himself, and the cast of characters includes Lorenzo Medici, Giuliano Medici, Pope Sixtus IV, Clarice Orsini, Nicolo Machiavelli and Lucrezia Donati. An exciting prospect for the spring, don’t you agree?

My blog posts have diminished in the past two months due to my return to school to finish my degree. As my schedule reverted to a manageable level, I am able to continue with my first love, research and sharing information in this forum. Your patience, comments and follows are deeply appreciated.

Kind regards,

Mary Jo

outside doors of view 4

outside doors of view 3

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Turn the key. Open another door…

Cabinet, antiques, antiquities, Metropolitan Museum of Art, David Roentgen

Cabinet lock from desk designed by David Roentgen

Welcome to this week’s Cabinet of Curiosities, with a special visit to the new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Extravagant Inventions, The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens.  As always, the drawers hold even more mysteries, so let’s begin!

antiques, antiquities, Metropolitan Museum of Art, David Roentgen, Abraham Roentgen

Rolltop Desk by Roentgen

Abraham Roentgen, 1711-1793, may have lived life as a cabinet maker, but his works were in the castles and private homes of the aristocracy, such was the outstanding quality.  He was admired in England for his interesting use of inlay, inventive mechanical fittings and the hidden drawers he used in his furniture.

Another feature found at this exhibition is the Automaton of Queen Marie Antoinette which I featured on this blog when the Google Art Project went to the Palace of Versailles.  This exquisite piece was produced by David Roentgen, 1743-1807, Abraham’s son.   Expanding the business with shops in Berlin and Saint Petersburg, David sold furniture to Catherine the Great of Russia.  This suite is believed to still be in the Palace of the Hermitage, the hiding place of so much remarkable and forgotten art.

Versailles, Google Art Project, Queen Marie Antoinette, Automaton

Automaton of Queen Marie Antoinette

The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars signaled the end of David Roentgen’s career.  The Revolutionary government regarded him as an émigré, seized the contents of his showrooms and his personal belongings.  Following the invasion of Neuwied, his workshops closed and prosperity never returned; he died half ruined at Wiesbaden in 1807; albeit, the craftsmanship of this family of cabinet makers survived, perhaps to inspire a new generation.

Walters Art Museum, Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe, New Times, Holland Cotter

Three Mulattoes of Esmereldas, 1599, Andres Sanchez Gallque

“In a fall art season distinguished, so far, largely by a bland, no-brainer diet served up by Manhattan’s major museums, you have to hit the road for grittier fare.”

When an art reviewer begins with the above sentence, it can only mean more to come of a witty, well written article celebrating a new exhibition at the Walters Art Museum, Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe.  Surprising links to ruling dynasties, and long ignored history is the focus of Joaneath Spicer, the museum’s curator of Renaissance and Baroque art.

Agnolo Bronzino produced a portrait of Alessandro de Medici, who ruled Florence for seven years before being assassinated in 1537.  He is considered by historians to be the illegitimate child of Giulio de Medici, Pope Clement VII, and a black or biracial woman.  His dark skin was remarked on by contemporaries who nicknamed him Il Moro.

Walters Art Museum, Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe

Portrait of Maria Salviate de Medici and Giulia de Medici, 1539

The portrait of Maria Salviati de Medici and Giula de Medici (1539) shows a child of the Italian aristocracy with black facial features, confirming the intermingling of African and European blood in the Medici family.  My own research on the Journey of the Magi fleshed out the story of Carlo di Cosimo de Medici, 1430-1492.  The illegitimate son of Cosimo de Medici and a Circassian slave name Magdelene.

The reviewer of this exhibition has supplied me with the final explanation of why I prefer historical art: “…one of the saving graces of art – what keeps you coming back – is that it isn’t a bottom-line business.  You think you’ve come to an end, a conclusion, and there’s always more: the exception, the extension.”   Like the many drawers in the cabinet, each waiting to be opened, explored, and imagined.  Thank you Holland Cotter, for taking that trip to Baltimore!

Watson and the Shark, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, coat of arms, history

Watson and the Shark, 1778, John Singleton Copley

Scuto Divino

A coat of arms and this painting tell another great drama from the time of travel on the high seas.  Painted by John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark depicts Brook Watson, 1735-1807, as the young merchant seaman in great peril.  Watson survived, but lost the power of his right leg in the attack.  He went on to great success in business and politics, even serving as Lord Mayor of London.  When he became a Baronet in 1803, Watson specified that the coat of arms designed to mark the honor must include a visual reference to his ordeal more than half a century earlier.  Thus the upper left of the crest depicts the leg Watson lost to the shark in 1749, and the motto Scuto Divino means “under god’s protection.”

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Chicago Art Institute, Vote Early and Vote Often

Allegory on the Defeat of the Duke of Alva at Brielle

The first flowering of images of “the wolf in sheep’s clothing” type occurred in Germany and the Netherlands during the Protestant Reformation.  While the iconography is now difficult to puzzle out, an anonymous engraving dated 1580 from the Netherlands casts the dastardly Spanish invader, the Duke of Alva, and his forces as foxes in clerical garb, and the courageous Dutch nobles as geese.  These humorously be-spectacled fowl routed the Spaniards back out to sea from the recently captured town of Brielle.  This surprise counter attack occurred on April Fool’s Day, 1572.  The town’s name literally translates as spectacles, so afterwards it was often said that the Duke had lost his glasses on April 1.

Thank you for joining me for this week’s Cabinet of  Curiosities!  A short trip to New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Europe, but with so many interesting pieces of art and vignettes of history to experience.  Museum Monday will be coverage of the Chazen Museum and the Uffizi paintings and tapestries.  I look forward to chatting with you!
A late entry sent to me about the upcoming Vincent Van Gogh movie, Loving Vincent.  Take a moment to watch this unique animation telling his story, it will make you thirsty for more!

Cheers,

MJ

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