Cabinet of Curiosities

At the end of every research week I have an assortment of interesting bits I find on the web, but have nowhere to share them. Creating this small post gives me a depository for extra information that I can share with my readers.

August 5, 2011

By Mary Jo Gibson

This cabinet resides at the Rijksmuseum, noted as built in the fourth quarter of the 17th century.  Hidden behind large doors are 15 drawers, fourteen have decorated mirrors etched with ships, the double steps in the front of the niche are the handle of a drawer, as is the balustrade above it.  The final niche contains a mirror with gilded woodcarvings of the classical gods Mars, Venus and Mercury.  Different types of wood and bone depict the facade of a house, reflecting into the mirror giving the illusion of two complete houses.

Great Museum Finds:

Paris: Life & Luxury, the Getty Museum
The physical exhibit is closing this Sunday, but the Getty Iris blog offers a choice set of clocks from the luxurious lifestyles of well-heeled Parisians. Included as a bonus are the downloadable ringtones of three separate clocks of the era.  The page includes separate stories about the accouterments of the luxurious lifestyles depicted in the exhibit, with a virtual room that lets you explore the history of the objects displayed in a painting of Gabriel Bernard de Rieux, a wealthy French magistrate.
The Museum Experience virtual tour provides the viewer with great images even after the exhibit closes, and the Getty uses all their interactive expertise to make this tour memorable.

Period Rooms from the Heilbrunn Timeline
Looking for some inspiration to a historical storyline?  The Metropolitan Museum of art has 44 period rooms available for online viewing, completely furnished with interiors and accessories.  The varied choices include a frescoed interior from a Roman house, ca. 40-30 BC from the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale, the Great Hall of Van Rensselaer Manor House, Albany, NY, ca 1765-69, Nur al-Din Room 1707 AD, Ottoman, Damascus, Syria, Shoin Room from 17th c. Japan, the Wisteria Dining room, 1910, from Lucien Levy-Dhurmer and the Living Room from the Little House, Wayzata, Minnesota, 1912, by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Some of these groupings are only available to view online, but include detailed descriptions and historical framework of the period.

What was once a pool, is now a museum
There once was a municipal indoor swimming pool in Lille, France, built in 1927; it became structurally unsound in 1985.  The French solution to this particular problem has its own twist.  Instead of destroying a beautiful art deco building including a wall of stained glass, they reinforced the pool and turned the open space into a museum, incorporating the pool with the displays.  Now reopened as La Piscine, the beautiful result features a number of sculptures.  Visits were estimated at 80,000 but surpassed that expectation with a record 200,000 visitors.

Summer Day in Hyde Park
The Museum of London shares a summer scene from William Powell Frith’s panoramic paintings, circa 1858.  Viewing all the activity at the water’s edge, imaging the heat wave we are now experiencing during the Victorian time, I wonder how these individuals coped with all the containment their clothing required.  There seems to be little room for personal space, the crush of the scene indicative of a time without air conditioning, where it seems all your neighbors are out seeking relief in the smallest area possible.

Tampering with art history
Florence, Italy, the name alone brings to mind storied artworks, legendary artists and dynasties of power.  Michelangelo’s kind of town; but the artist’s career is littered with unfinished business, such as the San Lorenzo Basilica.  After years of planning for an all-marble facade, it languished with only the plainest of designs due to the cost and the death of two Medici men immortalized in the mausoleum.  Using surviving sketches and a wooden model, the mayor of Florence has suggested that contemporaries finish the 1515 structure by 2015.  Skepticism abounds, arguments over changing the aesthetic is tantamount to changing history, and so forth.  Is there an architect talented enough to execute this daunting task?

From the Blogs:

Morbid Anatomy
The Morris Museum of Morristown, New Jersey contains a surprising treasure trove of gems; the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection, over 700 automata and mechanical musical instruments, mostly produced in the 19th century.  A large grouping of European automatons still capable of their original movements, indicative of the Marie Antoinette harpsichord from the Google Art Project automata,  and the many masters of this lost art based in France.  The priceless items from Murtogh D. Guinness, heir to the Guinness beer fortune who amassed these treasures and ultimately bequeathed them to the Morris Museum.

Mythical Beasts
The Forest of Dean in Glouchestershire, England hides a mythical creature known as the Beast of Dean.  Large enough to fell trees, the beast caused devastation in the surrounding region during the late 1700’s.  Gene Lempp explores the story behind the Moose-Pig in his tour of the Zoo Arcane.  Another of his wonderful series Designing From Bones.

Iron Age Scotland
Brochs are Iron Age dry stone towers found mainly in the northern and western coastal regions of Scotland.  First excavated between 1890 and 1904 by Sir Tress Barry, these chambered cairns were largely ignored by the archeological community.  With his passion for excavation and disinterest in publication, Sir Barry provided the presentation of archaeology to others while creating an archive of photographs documenting all that he found.  The site is sponsored by the Caithness Archaeological Trust and the Highland Council.

Young Michelangelo
The Torment of Saint Anthony by Michelangelo Buonarotti, ca 1487-88, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, and the sole Michelangelo in an American collection.
Inspired by an etching of Martin Schongauer, “The Temptation of Saint Anthony”, Michelangelo’s student and biographer Ascanio Condivi, recounts that the young artist visited a market to examine fish scales.  While this detail was absent in the engraving, Michelangelo painted a brilliant piece at the age of 12 or 13, stunning his contemporaries with his abilities.

Virtual tours of medieval churches in Transylvania
Zsombor Jekely has a fantastic blog on all things medieval in Hungary.  One of his posts highlights the 360-degree panorama of Treasures of Szeklerland and 24 additional links to these various World Treasure sites.  Important fresco cycles and unique 14th century architectural decorations survive with an additional panorama of the outside grounds.  The rose window at the Gyulafehaervar rivals any mainstream European cathedral, but the haunting interiors would make a great inspiration for any gothic story.

Online Archiving Continues…
The Yale Center for British Art now includes a viewing selection to peruse objects without having the vital artist or cataloging information.  Art available includes sculpture, books, illuminated manuscripts and paintings.  Special links to the object page with all dates, attributions, and a downloadable version of the image are only a click away.  Such as Peter Paul Rubens’ “Peace Embracing Plenty”, from the Mellon Collection, or John Everett Millais, “L’Enfant du Regiment”.   Paintings are available 100% on line, but Rare Books and Manuscripts are only available at a 2% level, as their work continues.

Any of these inspire you to take a closer look?  Perhaps add the information to your own treasure collection for future reference?

That is all for this week’s Cabinet, join me for Museum Monday when I take a virtual tour of the Getty Museum’s furniture collection.  If you have any museums or sites of interests you wish to see researched on my blog, please feel free to post in the comments below.





Filed under August

5 responses to “Cabinet of Curiosities

  1. Thanks for the mention, Mary Jo! The panorama of Szeklerland is incredible. The vivid detail makes one feel as if they are standing there, immersed in the experience.

    Great post.

  2. Love the music in the background too! Nice touch.
    Thanks for the comment Gene!


  3. Another fascinating roundup, Mary Jo! Just got back from a writing retreat in Taos, and won’t be able to make the Getty exhibition. At least there’s the virtual tour. Period Rooms is such a great resource for writers. I’m always trying to imagine what other-era residences look like when I write. Thanks for the intro to it!

  4. Hi Elle! Thanks for the comment! A writing retreat in Taos must have been a great vacation. I look forward to the days I can travel to the museums I showcase in my blog.
    Mary Jo

  5. Pattie

    Regarding La Piscine, the pool museum. The only word I can think of to describe the museum is yummy. Thank you for bringing it to our attention…and now I have yet another reason to go to France. I wonder if you’ve ever seen the Lightner Museum in St Augustine FL?

    Originally a hotel, it is now a wonderful and curious museum. They had a pool that they filled in and the balconies, spas, other bathing areas (as well as the entire hotel) are used as exhibit galleries and an cafe. Thanks again for a wonderful blog.

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