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Museum Monday

Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, museums, virtual tour, museum experience, social media

Plantin Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Belgium

November 5, 2012

By Mary Jo Gibson

Today on Museum Monday, we are visiting the Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, which honors the famous printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus.  It is located in their former residence and printing establishment, Plantin Press.

The site offers a video tour of the building, and some tutorials about printing and art.  The Museum possesses an exceptional collection of typographical materials, and the two oldest surviving printing presses with a complete set of dies and matrices.  The extensive library with its richly decorated interior and archive of the business is part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Program, registered in 2001 in recognition of their historical significance.  Let’s go inside and see what we can find!

Entrance to Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, social media, museum experience, virtual tour

Entrance to Plantin Moretus Museum

Tapestries at the Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Tapestries at the Plantin Moretus Museum

Library at the Plantin Moretus Museum, virtual tour, Museum Monday, social media, museum experience

Library at the Plantin Moretus Museum

The Residence, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

The Residence

Second LIbrary, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Second Library

The thriving enterprise of Plantin produced 2450 works, and was continued after the death of Christophe Plantin by his son in law, Jan I Moretus (1543-1610), and then his son Balthasar I Moretus (1574-1641).  His friendship with Peter Paul Rubens consolidated the firm’s reputation.  The famous artist produced drawings of exceptional works of Baroque publishing.  The international reputation led to visits by Marie de Medici in 1631, Queen Christina of Sweden in 1654 and a number of Italian and Polish aristocrats.

The collection features the Biblia Polyglotta (1568-1573), a Bible in five languages

The Thesaurus Teutoniae Linguae

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, a geographical book by Abraham Ortelius

Cruydeboeck, by Rembert Dodoens, a book describing herbs

A book on anatomy by Andreas Vesalius and Joannes Valverde

Paintings and drawings by Peter Paul Rubens

A study by humanist Justus Lipsius and many of his works

The Deposition, Lucas Vorsteman, 1595-1675, after Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, ca. 1620, Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

The Deposition, Lucas Vorsteman, 1595-1675, after Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, ca. 1620

In the first half of the 16th century, Paris was a dangerous place for anyone in the book trade suspected of disseminating literature tinged with Reformation ideas.  This may have prompted Platnin’s move to the more liberal atmosphere of Antwerp in 1549.

Even in Antwerp, printers had to be careful.  Plantin’s property is seized in 1562 because he sold a heretical pamphlet, but he conceived an ambitious project that would place his credentials as faithful servant of the Church beyond doubt.  He planned to print the multi-volume polyglot Bible in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic (Middle Eastern language), and Syriac.  He sought sponsorship from one of the most powerful men in Europe, Philip II, whose domain encompassed not only the kingdom of Spain by all the Netherlands.  Because of the royal sanction, the Bible became known as the Biblia Regia.

Polygot Bible, Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Polygot Bible

Philip II insisted that a learned Spanish clergyman, Benito Arias Montano, should supervise the project.  The multi-volume project became a difficult and expensive undertaking.  New typefaces were struck in the Greek and Hebrew alphabets.   Plantin’s son in law and business partner, Jan Moretus, was fluent in Greek, but compositors employed who were capable of setting Hebrew.  Philip II proved far readier at sending instructions than at forwarding the financial aid he had promised.  Even after publication of all eight volumes, the problems did not cease.  A rival scholar denounced Montano to the Spanish Inquisition, claiming that the Hebrew and Chaldaic sections were overly supportive of Jewish beliefs.  Montano was acquitted, but nobody in the 16th century stood before the Inquisition without anxiety.

With various typefaces skillfully arranged on the page to avoid confusion, the Polyglot Bible is regarded as Plantin’s masterpiece as a printer.

Abraham Ortelius by Peter Paul Rubens, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Abraham Ortelius by Peter Paul Rubens

Abraham Ortelius’ momumental work, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, regarded as the first atlas to appear.  It was an instant success and four issues of the first edition are published in 1570.  When it appeared, it was the most expensive book ever printed.  The enthusiasm from the public resulted in 7300 copies from 1570-1612.

Map of Alexander the Great's conquests, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Map of Alexander the Great’s conquests

The thriving enterprise of Plantin produced 2450 works, and continuing after the death of Christophe Plantin by his son-in-law, Jan I Moretus (1543-1610), and then his son Balthasar I Moretus (1574-1641).  His friendship with Peter Paul Rubens consolidated the firm’s reputation.  The famous artist produced drawings of exceptional works of Baroque publishing.  The international reputation led to visits by Marie de Medici in 1631, Queen Christina of Sweden in 1654 and a number of Italian and Polish aristocrats.

Balthasar Moretus, Plantin Moretus Museum, social media, Musuem Monday, virtual tour, museum experience

Balthasar Moretus 1574-1641

Book Illustration by Rubens, Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Book Illustration by Rubens

During the first quarter of the 19th century, the situation of the Moretuses deteriorated.  Unable to come to terms with the modernization of printing, development of mechanical and rotary presses; Edward Moretus (1804-1880) was to be the last of the printer/publishers of the family; in 1866 the final book is produced, Horae diurnae S. Francisi, and Edward was forced to cease printing.  He became the curator of the family patrimony and a collector.  In 1873, he negotiated the sale of the property with all the contents to the Belgian state and City of Antwerp.

Printing Art, Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Printing Art

Museum Staff, 1902, Museum Monday, Plantin Moretus Museum, social media, virtual tour, museum experience

Museum Staff, 1902

Illustration of Omega Symbol, Plantin Moretus Museum, Museum Monday, social media, virtual tour, museum experience.

Illustration of Omega Symbol

Thank you for joining me on Museum Monday at the Plantin Moretus Museum.  Next week I plan a review of the Chazen Museum exhibition, Offering of the Angels: Paintings and Tapestries from the Uffizi Gallery, which may be the closest I get to this storied place for the next few years.  I look forward to chatting with you about other museums you enjoy!

Cheers,
MJ

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Cabinet of Curiosities

By Mary Jo Gibson

July 27, 2012

After weeks of struggle with computer issues, I am pleased to be back with a new Cabinet of Curiosities.  Realizing that banging my head on my desk wasn’t solving the problem, I decided to make an additional contribution to the economy of Dell and order a new laptop.  Now I can get back to what I enjoy doing the most, research and blogging.  Let us peruse what is in the hidden drawers of this week’s Cabinet.

I don’t care if the monkey is biting the maid, I am having my portrait painted.. shh

Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia is hosting ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado‘ featuring masterworks by Velaquez, Goya, Melendez, El Greco and Ribera.  This spectacular painting belongs to Princess Isabella Clara Eugenia, eldest daughter of Philip II of Spain.  The full length portrait by Alonso Sanchez Coello was commissioned to immortalize one of the most important women of the Hapsburg dynasty.  And it shows, from the incredible period costume she wears, the jewelry on her hands, the cameo of her father held between her fingertips, all speak to the wealth of Spain during this period of history.

Kneeling beside the Princess is the family servant, Magdalena Ruiz; her appearance is part of a long tradition of portraits in which servants, pages, jesters and dwarfs appear with members of the royal family.  This painting is coded with the symbolism of power and conquest, at a time when the absolute belief in the rule and perpetuation of the monarchy was paramount.  Propaganda in art is evident all through history, but the monkeys?  That is really an over the top statement; nevermind that the Princess appears to be petting her servant’s head.

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Virtual Tourism

This week, Andreas at TravelWriticus, wrote about his adventures touring the Bildean region of Austria.  Tempting pictures of local cuisine, numerous sights, and classes, all made for a virtual tour for the rest of us. He made latte art, distilled schnaps, and slept in a ‘haunted’ castle.   His photo of Salzburg set against the mountains is breathtaking; cue Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music.

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Old Pictures, Treasure Waiting to be Discovered

Boxes of old family photos tend to hold interesting stories.  I received a small collection of old family pictures that I have spent many hours reviewing.  Each grouping tells a story of my family and their descendants, the places they lived and their daily activities.  I would caution anyone that is considering throwing out these historical items.  With a little research, donations can be made to appreciative historical societies.    What’s That Picture is a great blog with vintage photos, mysteries and discoveries all based on the photographs that someone once discarded.  There may be treasure hidden in those dusty boxes; I found a long forgotten Uncle, and a murder mystery worthy of my research efforts.

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The Thirst for Intellectual Stimulation is Ubiquitous

The History Channel has been languishing in their recent programming, Swamp People, Ice Road Truckers, and every possible film clip of aliens created in a conspiracy theorists’ shed, just to mention a few of the disappointments.  I did find a nice addition to their website The History Channel Club featuring History Made Every Day.  The clips are short sound bites, but with some expansion, I think they can make this into a worthy project.  Why don’t they consult the Book of Days website for deeper content, is a question I would pose to their researchers.  History isn’t just about the current collective memory of your audience.

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Vexed Man at The Getty Museum

How many artists over time have suffered with some kind of mental illness?  The number seems to be unbalanced in comparison with other lifestyle choices.  This bust is one of a series of 69 portrait busts produced in the last thirteen years of Franz Messerschmidt’s life while he was suffering from mental illness.  A contemporary wrote that the artist told him while making the character heads, his hope was to ward away the evil spirits that invaded his mind.

In an interesting aside, the Getty also holds in its collections “Irises” by Vincent Van Gogh, painted while residing in an asylum at Saint Remy, France.

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Beautiful Libraries

Gazing around at the unruly collection of books scattered in many areas of my house, I wonder if they will ever end in a library like the ones depicted on Beautiful-Libraries.com, the showcase of some outstanding places where books live.  The English Country House Libraries page shares some spectacular photos; some just appear to be showplaces, while others look like a room that is truly being used for a purpose.

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Google some Antarctic Streetviews to keep cool during the hot days

The huts and surrounding landscape of the great South Pole expedition of 1911-1912 can be viewed on the Atlantic magazine site, with interactive Google Streetview capability in the pictures.  I find it fascinating that these capsules of time are still intact, all the artifacts laid out on the tables to peruse.  Looking at the sunlight rooms, it seems unimaginable that the summer weather is 60 degrees below zero, the time when Google bravely ventured on their expedition.

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The Harvard Museum of Natural History

Harvard University has an item or two that one would not expect to find in a Natural History Museum.  The institution houses a collection of 3,200 hand crafted glass models of flowering plants created between 1866 and 1936 by German glass artists Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka.  Not on display are 430 glass models of marine invertebrates, such as this glass model of a Portuguese man of war, which Harvard acquired in the late 19th century.  A collection such as this should be on display, at least on line, a unique contribution to natural history by disciplined glass artisans.

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iPad App Feature

The Life of Art app has been taken to a new level at the Getty Museum.  Taking selected objects from the museum’s collection, and perceived in different ways.  Encouraging viewers to spend time in examination, understanding how they were made and functioned, why they were collected and how they are displayed.  For each item, the app provides historical notes and the ability to rotate the item on screen and see it from different angles.  The basic app can be used at any time, while visitors can use a special version that adds augmented reality features.  The goal is to learn whether these apps will encourage visitors to spend more time with pieces of art.  Myself, the only discouragement to viewing art for longer periods of time would be the hours of the museum, and maybe time constraints imposed by teenage impatience.

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And in the last drawer…

Since the Olympics are taking place in London this year, there is no shortage of news concerning all things on the storied isle.  I managed to find an interesting video on YouTube discussing the City of London, as opposed to London itself.  Confused?  The witty piece reminded me why I appreciate their idiosyncrasies.

Extra bonus, in case you missed the opening ceremonies, the Queen and James Bond.

James Bond and the Queen

James Bond and the Queen

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On this whirlwind of curiosities I have taken you to the South Pole, Australia, private libraries in England, Harvard University, Austria, California, London and the City of London. I don’t know about you, but I need a frappucino after all this virtual tourism! I hope you enjoyed my Cabinet of Curiosities, join me next Friday to see what I have collected. What unique things have you collected on your virtual tours?
Cheers,

Mary Jo

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