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