Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Tour the Winchester Mystery House

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

The famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is closed until at least April 7th, but the museum has compiled a comprehensive 41-minute video tour for our remote enjoyment.

The manchester was built by Sarah Winchester, widow of rifle tycoon William Wirt Winchester. When he died in 1881, his wife inherited a huge fortune in cash and stock, making her worth a half billion dollars in today’s money and one of the richest women in the world. Legend has it — and it is very much legendary as Sarah left no correspondence or journals on the subject, nor did any family, friends or loyal employees ever volunteer an explanation — that, devastated by the loss of her husband and daughter, she sought the advice of a Boston medium named Adam Coons. After a séance, he told her that she was haunted by the thousands of Civil War soldiers and Indians who had been killed by Winchester firearms, and that the only way to appease the vengeful spirits was to use the Winchester money she’d inherited to build them a house. Another origin story claims that a medium told her she would die as soon as the house was finished, so she saw to it that construction continued until her last breath. There is zero evidence that any of this ever happened.

In 1884, she moved to California and bought a 161-acre farm in Santa Clara Valley from Dr. Robert Caldwell. There was a modest eight room farmhouse already on the property, but Sarah’s vision was far vaster. For 38 years, she had her crew of carpenters and masons work in shifts so construction continued 24-7, 365 days a year. (Again, this is the legend; somebody probably took some time off now and again.) built and built, creating a mansion with hundreds of rooms, rooms-within-rooms, unfinished rooms, mazes of corridors, dead ends, staircases that are short cuts from one part of the house to the other, staircases that lead nowhere, doors that open up to walls, doors that open to the outside two stories up, small doors, big doors, cupolas, turrets, windows of every shape and size, skylights in floors, prime numbers, especially 13, everywhere. There was even a seven story tower at one point, but it was destroyed in the 1906 Frisco quake.

When she died on September 5th, 1922, work immediately stopped. There are still nails half-hammered in to the walls. The rich reclusive widow and her labyrinthine mansion were already famous by then. The villa was known as the Spirit House and rumors abounded of nightly séances, copious hauntings and “evil spirits” confounded by Sarah Winchester’s architectural follies.

She left her estate to the charities she supported, dedicated employees and family. The furnishings of the house were sold and the mansion itself opened to tours in 1923. Millions of visitors have trod its eccentric floors in the century since then. You can now join them virtually from the comfort of your home, maybe chasing the tour with a viewing of the horror thriller Winchester starring Helen Mirren now showing on Showtime and streaming on Hulu.

You can also buy discounted ticket vouchers for a visit to the mansion that will be valid through May 2021. The vouchers cost $26, $13 off the regular ticket price. The income from the voucher sales will help keep the lights on and food on the table for the museum’s employees while the Winchester House is closed.

Share

#UffiziDecameron

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

More than once over the past few weeks I have thought about the Decameron, the early Italian-language masterpiece written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the mid-14th century as the Black Death ravaged Tuscany, the peninsula, the continent. In it, 10 youths, seven women and three men, flee plague-ridden Florence and hole up in a villa in the countryside for two weeks. To alleviate the boredom of their self-quarantine, they tell each other stories for 10 nights of the 14 (with exceptions for the two Sundays, and one day per week dedicated to chores which is rather impressive roommating considering the circumstances, actually). By the end of their stay, they’ve told 100 stories.

With all of Italy on lockdown, museums and heritage sites closed, people stuck in their abodes for days at a time, the Uffizi Gallery has launched a digital Decameron to entertain and console the shut-in with photographs, videos and stories shared on all its social media platforms — Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram — under #UffiziDecameron.

The Uffizi picks from the immense wealth of artworks in its Gallery of Statues and Paintings, in the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens, posts a photo or clip, and their social media curators explain the background and meaning of each piece. The first video posted was a wordless tour of the Boboli gardens with aerial and terrestrial footage that is just breathtakingly beautiful. The second is a tour by museum assistant Cristina De Caro of the Uffizi’s Contini Bonacossi collection, something I knew not a single thing about before today.

The portrait by Bronzino of Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de Medici, wearing an exquisitely brocaded gown, her arm draped around the shoulders of their son and heir, is world-famous. Less well-known is the ring Cosimo gave her for their wedding: a Roman intaglio stone with matrimonial motifs (cornucopias, intertwined hands) he had set by Florentine goldsmiths. It is one of very few surviving examples of secular gold work from the early Medici dukes in Florence today because the family treasure was so widely dispersed. The reason it’s in the Uffizi today is that Eleonora was buried with it. It was found when the remains of the 50 Medici family members buried in tombs in the walls of San Lorenzo were moved to the crypt under the church in 1857.

Over on Instagram the quarantine festivities kicked off with a 19th century painting by Vincenzo Cabianca of a scene from the Decameron. More recently they posted a riveting explanation of the complex imagery in a section of the Siena Duomo’s unbelievable inlaid marble mosaic floor designed by Pinturicchio in 1504. 

As a companion to the Uffizi Decameron initiative, the museum will also publish images, video and content dedicated to Raphael. It’s the 500th anniversary of his death this year, and the Scuderie del Quirinale museum in Rome was hosting an unprecedented exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance master. My plans to write about the show were derailed by horror, so it warms the cockles of my broken heart that the Uffizi, which loaned 50 of its works out of the 200 or so on display, will be sharing online what cannot be shared in person right now.

“Even if museums have had to close their doors, art doesn’t stop,” explained Uffizi director Eike Schmidt. “This is why from now on we will address our public also through Facebook. The treasures of the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitta and the Boboli Gardens will keep you company in these weeks of the common commitment against the spread of the virus. Today we begin Uffizi Decameron: as in the masterpiece by Boccaccio, every day we will tell stories, the works, the personages of our most beautiful museums, uniting us in the name of culture, of art, and — why not — of amusement. The Uffizi will be with you, in your homes, to overcome all together the current moment of difficulty. We avoid all contagion, except that of beauty.”

So much lump in throat right now. Hai tutto il mio amore, Italia.

Share

V&A acquires rare Medieval cluster brooch

Friday, March 13th, 2020

The Victoria & Albert Museum has acquired a medieval brooch that is the only one of its kind ever discovered in the UK. Only seven of them are known to exist in the world. It was discovered by metal detectorist Justin Owens at a 2017 rally on a farm that was once a royal hunting grounds near Brigstock, Northamptonshire. It was only four inches under the surface and so caked with mud that Owens at first thought it was a bottle cap or some other piece of trash. Cleaning revealed it was an extremely rare late medieval brooch of gold and jewels.

The front face of the brooch is a triangular setting outlined by three gold bars with a central rectangular gemstone, almost certainly a spinel, in a four-prong mount. Around the stone are alternating flower and bow shapes with twisted gold wires filling gaps. At the three corners of the triangle are are box bezels topped with a pointed gemstone giving them a pyramidical shape. One of the three is missing its gem point. The surviving two are diamonds. White enamel balls accent the piece and there would originally have been pearls, now lost.

The front face is mounted to a roughly circular gold back plate divided into six pie slices. At the center of the outer edge of each wedge is a rivet keeping the setting elements in place, mounted to the back plate. There’s another rivet in the middle where the six divides meet. It holds the central gem in place. The pin is intact, hinged to the back plate. The style of design dates it to between 1420 and 1600.

James Robinson, Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass at the V&A, said: “This intriguing and exquisite late medieval cluster brooch is a rare survivor with a tantalising story to tell.

“It’s sculptural design, exceptionally fine gold and enamel work, stunning diamonds, central cabochon spinel and pearls (now lost), all express burgeoning opulence and extreme wealth.

“It would have been made for someone from the highest echelons of society. The loss of some diamonds and the brooch’s severely bent pin belie the visible trauma it would have suffered when it was likely ripped off its wearer during the thrill of a hunt.

“It makes a truly captivating and unique addition to our world-class jewellery collection, which traces the story of jewellery in Europe from ancient times to the present day.”

After a painstaking conservation using the most delicate of tools including pheasant and ostrich feathers, the brooch will go on display in the V&A’s Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery alongside the silver, sapphire and diamond coronet Prince Albert had made as wedding gift for Queen Victoria.

Share

Smithsonian releases 2.8 million free images and more

Friday, February 28th, 2020

The Smithsonian Institution has released 2.8 million images from its digital collection for broad public use, and that’s just for starters. The Smithsonian Open Access initiative removes copyright restrictions from images and data, releasing its vast database into the public domain with a Creative Commons Zero license, meaning digital files can be used in any way, including for commercial purposes, without requiring permission or even attribution.

Museums like the Metropolitan, Getty and Rijksmuseum have been making high resolution images of their collections available online for personal or non-profit use in recent years, including the Smithsonian which already has more than 4.7 million images from its collection available for personal use. The Smithsonian Open Access program expands the scope of digitization by a cultural institution, extending the use license to CC0 for nearly 3 million of those images, plus much more.  Any digital asset owned by the Smithsonian — research data, text, sound recordings, 3D models and more — is being designated open access. More will be added on an ongoing basis, with more than 3 million images designated open access by the end of the year.

All of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo contributed images or data to this launch. The program includes content across the arts, sciences, history, culture, technology and design, from portraits of historic American figures to 3D scans of dinosaur skeletons.

Visit the Smithsonian Open Access portal to search the digital collections for high-resolution 2D and 3D images. You can also browse by platforms like Learning Lab for K-12 educational resources and Figshare for research datasets. The Smithsonian has also published open-source tools for the creation of 3D content. Use Voyager to view one the museum’s 2,200 3D models or to author and publish your own.

Open access furthers the Smithsonian’s mission which has been the same since its founding in 1846: for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.“ Remarkably, the Smithsonian’s founder James Smithson, an English chemist and mineralogist who died in 1829, provided some blueprints for the initiative. His biographer Heather Ewing talks about Smithson’s view that the natural world could only ever be understood with many people participating in, assembling, and sharing information. Smithson used commonly found objects when conducting his experiments so others could replicate his experiments as he sought to understand everything from snake venom to ancient Egyptian pigments to improved methods for making coffee.

“It is only by exchange and mutual assistance that naturallists [sic] can possibly ever succeed in assembling together a collection of subjects of their study, which nature has made so numerous, and disseminated in such various and distant parts of the world,” James Smithson

Share

Painting of Ra found inside 3,000-year-old coffin

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

A painting of the Egyptian sun god Ra has been found inside the coffin of  22nd Dynasty (945‒712 B.C.) priest Ankh-khonsu now at the Harvard Semitic Museum. When conservators opened the lid, they saw the image of the falcon-headed god, partially obscured by blackened resin that was poured over the coffin during the funerary rights, on the interior bottom of the case.

The coffin has been in the museum’s collection for 118 years, so you’d think its contents wouldn’t come as a surprise, but the mummy it once held was removed when it arrived at the museum and the closed coffin has been display most of the time since. It was opened again 30 years ago, but its interior was either not documented or the records were lost.

There was no risk of that happening this time. The coffin was opened in order to digitize it, part of a program to record every detail of the object and create a digital model that will allow museum visitors, the interested public and researchers around the world full access to Ankh-khonsu’s coffin without interfering with its display or conservation environment.

Despite the uneven texture of the area and the dark coating, Manuelian and his colleagues could see the yellow, orange, and blue painting and the hieroglyphs that read “Ra-Horakhty, the great God, Lord of Heaven” next to the figure.

As part of the project, Manuelian assembled an “all-star cast” of conservators, a professional photographer, and pigment sampling and residue and wood analysis experts to collect information and capture imagery of the coffin materials and adornments. Colleagues came from as far away as University College London and from just down the street at the Harvard Art Museums.

From the hieroglyphics on the coffin we know Ankh-khonsu was a doorkeeper in the Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak in ancient Thebes (modern-day Luxor). It was a position he inherited from his father Ankh-en-amun. Two other 22nd Dynasty coffins in the museum, a painted wood one belonging to Mut-iy-iy  and a cartonnage one belonging to Pa-di-mut, were also opened, documented and scanned, but their records were more complete so no surprises were found.

Great flukes of history tangent!

The coffin was given to the museum by Theodore M. Davis (1838-1915), a wealthy lawyer, businessman and avid Egyptophile who spent the last 15 years of his life spending winters in Egypt and sponsoring excavations. The digs he funded in the Valley of the Kings unearthed 30 tombs: KV20, the original tomb of Thutmose I, KV43, tomb of Pharaoh Thutmose IV, and KV55, aka the Amarna cache, containing the remains of Pharaoh Akhenaten, among other notable finds.

The first three seasons of Davis’ excavations were conducted by Howard Carter, then the inspector-general of antiquities for Upper Egypt. Despite the many important discoveries his teams had made, Davis wanted more than anything to find an intact royal tomb and he came to believe that the Valley of the Kings, thoroughly plundered and recycled as its tombs had been over the millennia, was “exhausted” of any such treasure. He gave up the exclusive concession to excavate the Valley of the Kings in 1914. Who got it next, you ask? Why, that would be Lord Carnarvon. The rest, as they say, is history. Davis died in 1915 so he never saw his successor and his former dig leader hit the dirtiest of all paydirt when they discovered the untouched tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 six feet away from where Davis’ last excavation had stopped.

Share

Monumental Tiffany window to join Chagall’s at Chicago Art Institute

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

The Art Institute of Chicago’s most popular draw, Marc Chagall’s America Windows, will soon have a worthy companion in a monumental stained glass window by Tiffany Studios. It was purchased from the Community Church in Providence, Rhode Island, in June 2018, when its 48 layered-glass panels were painstakingly removed and transported to Chicago where it has been undergoing restoration.

The window is 23 feet high and 16 feet wide, one of the largest windows ever made by Tiffany. It is attributed to Agnes F. Northrop, Tiffany’s premier master of landscape and floral designs. It depicts a landscape of waterfall, pool and forest with Mt. Chocorua, one of the White Mountains’ most frequently painted vistas, in the background. An inscription across the lower lancets reads: My help / cometh from / the Lord who / made heaven / and earth. On the bottom right is the signature: Tiffany Studios / New York 1917.

It was commissioned by Mary L. Hartwell as a memorial to her late husband  fire extinguishing sprinkler magnate Frederick W. Hartwell who had died in 1911. Frederick Hartwell was born in New Hampshire and had lived there until he was 11 when he moved in with his uncle in Providence. The window nods to Mr. Hartwell’s birth state in its depiction of the White Mountains scene.

Mr. Hartwell had been a devout congregant and a very generous financial supporter of the Central Baptist Church of Providence. Originally founded in 1807 as the Second Baptist Church of Providence, it had moved and changed names repeatedly over the years. In 1917 it moved again to a brand new building and Mary Hartwell commissioned what would become known as the “Hartwell Memorial Window (Light in Heaven and Earth),” in memory of Frederick.

If you’re wondering why any person or institution would tear such a precious and beautiful piece of their history from its very walls, the church’s current name says it all. The Community Church of Providence is a small multi-denominational congregation that is entirely dedicated to serving its community.

Museum officials did not reveal the purchase price but said that price alone was not what determined who would buy the work. Leaders of the Community Church, in deciding to sell it, wanted it to go to a museum and they wanted to know the museum’s plan for care and display of the window, said Oehler.

“I really credit the church with this foresight and thinking about their role as stewards for the window,” she said. “They have a very community focused mission, and they’re not a museum, and they’re not in the business of protecting works of art.”

In the news release announcing the acquisition, Pastor Evan Howard of the church said, “We are extremely pleased that this exceptional work of art has entered such a renowned collection.”

In picking AIC as “the ideal institution to care for and display the window,” Howard said the church hopes that it will be “experienced by a broad public audience that includes scholars, artists and visitors from around the world.”

They sure know their monumental stained glass, too, what with the five-year restoration of the Chagall windows.

Conservation is expected to be complete in the fall of this year. So far the window has been cleaned, one third of the panels removed for glass repair with more minor repairs performed on the panels in situ. The restored window will be installed at the top of the Grand Staircase by the Michigan Avenue entrance. It will be framed and backlit to stun and amaze all who enter there.

Share

All three iconic Armada Portraits on display together for the first time in 430 years

Friday, February 14th, 2020

The three surviving portraits of Queen Elizabeth I painted to celebrate the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 have gone on display together for the first time in their 430 years. The Armada portraits depict the Queen in victorious glory front and center flanked by two seascapes featuring episodes from the defeat of the Armada in the background. One portrait is in the Duke of Bedford’s collection at Woburn Abbey, a cropped version is in the National Portrait Gallery and one is in the Queen’s House at Royal Museums Greenwich. With both Woburn Abbey and the NPG currently undergoing refurbishment, their portraits have joined the third in Greenwich to give visitors the first opportunity in history to see the three Armada portraits together.

An artist or artists unknown made the portraits shortly after Spain’s failed invasion. At various points scholars have proposed that the original was painted by George Gower, Serjeant Painter to the Queen beginning in 1581, and copies made from that, or that the surviving portraits are derived from a miniature portrait of the queen by Elizabeth’s favorite limner (miniaturist) Nicholas Hilliard.

The three versions have several differences. Woburn Abbey and Greenwich are horizontal in orientation, the NPG’s vertical. The latter orientation was achieved by cutting the sides off the larger portrait, removing almost all of the seascapes, the edges of the queen’s enormous balloon sleeves and the symbols of her imperial glory: the globe she rests her delicate white hand on and the crown behind her. Details of her clothing and accessories differ. Woburn Abbey’s seascapes are older, almost certainly original to the painting when it was made in the late 16th century. The Greenwich portrait’s seascapes date to the 1700s, although they are painted in the style of the 1670s or 1680s. Scans of the panel found the original seascapes that match the Woburn Abbey ones underneath the later versions.

Acquired in 2016 by the National Maritime Museum from the family Sir Francis Drake after a national fundraising campaign raised £10 million ($13,225,500), the Queen’s House Armada portrait is believed to have been owned, perhaps even commissioned, by Sir Francis himself. It needed extensive conservation after centuries spent hanging over the fireplace in a drafty old mansion. Two coats of varnish had yellowed it and it was marred by paint retouching from 19th and 20th century restorations. The varnish layers were removed as were the retouchings. The two seascapes, discovered by analysis of the pigments to date to the early 18th century, were not altered because they are so inextricably connected to the iconography of the painting.

The Faces of a Queen exhibition opened on Thursday at the Queen’s House Art Gallery and runs through August 31st. Admission is free.

Share

New finds in Havering Hoard revealed

Monday, February 10th, 2020

The Havering Hoard, a cache of 453 bronze objects dating to 900 – 800 B.C. that was discovered in a 2018 archaeological survey in an east London quarry overlooking the Thames, is even more unusual that it seemed when the find was announced last year. Museum of London curators have been examining the objects closely before they go on display for the first time and have discovered additional rarities.

The collection of chisels, sickles, metal ingots, weapons and axe heads is the largest Bronze Age hoard ever discovered in London and the third largest ever found in the UK, and it includes two decorated terret rings — fittings from a horse-drawn cart that kept reins from getting tangled — that are unique for the UK. Terret rings have been found before in France, but not Britain. Conservators have now identified a bracelet that was imported, likely from northwest France, and copper ingots from the Alps.

Kate Sumnall, a curator of archaeology at the museum, said the unexpected finds suggested links to Europe that were nearly 3,000 years old.

“These objects give clues about how this wasn’t an isolated community but rather one that fitted into a much larger cultural group with connections along the Thames Valley and across the continent.”

The question of how and why this hoard was assembled and deposited remains unanswered.

There are four theories about why so many objects would have been deliberately broken and meticulously buried.

  • Was it a ritualistic offering to the gods?
  • Was it to do with it being the late bronze age and start of the iron age, so the objects were no longer so highly valued or wanted?
  • Could a powerful person have been trying to control the amount of bronze that was in circulation and being traded?
  • Or was the location a kind of bronze age storage site? The total weight of the objects is 45kg [99 lbs], so they could not have been easily carried around.

The hoard will be going on display for the first time in an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands this spring. Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery opens April 3rd and runs through November 1st.

Share

Mummy was stabbed in the back, study finds

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

A new study of a famous mummy that has been the centerpiece of the Ulster Museum in Belfast since 1835 has revealed that she was murdered by being stabbed in the back.

The mummy and her sarcophagus were acquired in Thebes in 1834 by Thomas Gregg, a wealthy lawyer and owner of Ballymenoch House in Holywood, today part of metro Belfast. Like many wealthy European tourists, Gregg sought out a human souvenir on the thriving Egyptian mummy market. The country was well-stocked with thousands of years worth of remains to dig up for the trade in mummies, a trade established in the Renaissance when mummy became an essential ingredient in any respectable pharmacopoeia. The market expanded geometrically in the early 19th century as the fashion for all things Egyptian exploded in the wake of the Napoleonic wars.

Gregg had it shipped by boat to Belfast and donated it to the Belfast Natural History Society, now the Ulster Museum. On January 27th, 1835, the case was opened and the mummy unwrapped before a riveted audience. Mummy “unrollings” were a popular entertainment in the 19th century, and the inscribed case, fine linen wrappings and well-preserved remains complete with auburn curls generated much buzz in the media and among scholars at the time.

The event was presided over by the Reverend Edward Hincks, who when not occupied by his clerical duties had dedicated his considerable intellectual prowess to learning and deciphering ancient languages, including Persian cuneiform, Akkadian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics. He translated the inscriptions on her coffin which revealed her to be Takabuti, a married woman between 20 and 30 years of age, who died around 600 B.C., the late 25th Dynasty. Her father was Nespare, priest of Amun, her mother Tasenirit.

Takabuti has been a fixture of the museum’s Egypt gallery ever since and one of its most popular exhibits. The mummy has been extensively studied. In recent years she’s gotten new x-rays, CT scans, hair sample analysis and radiocarbon dating. The most recent study included DNA analysis and new, more detailed  CT scans.

The scans show a clear stab wound in the upper back of her chest wall near her left shoulder that was the cause of death. Material seen in previous scans that had been thought to be her heart was in fact material the embalmers packed into the fatal wound. Her genetic haplotype, H4a1, has never been found before in Egyptians, modern or ancient.

The team, whose findings are made public on the 185 year anniversary of Takabuti’s unwrapping in 1835, also show that her DNA is more genetically similar to Europeans rather than modern Egyptian populations.

The team show Takabuti had an extra tooth – 33 instead of 32 – something which only occurs in 0.02% of the population and an extra vertebrae, which only occurs 2% of the population.

And Takabuti’s heart, previously thought to have been missing, was identified by the state of the art technology used by the researchers as intact and perfectly preserved.

Share

Two Boys with a Bladder head for LA

Monday, January 20th, 2020

The J. Paul Getty Museum has acquired, and even more importantly received an export license for, Two Boys with a Bladder, a chiaroscuro masterpiece by 18th century British painter Joseph Wright of Derby.

The recently rediscovered painting depicts two young boys, boldly lit by a concealed candle, inflating a pig’s bladder. In the 18th century, animal bladders served as toys, either inflated and tossed like balloons or filled with dried peas and shaken like rattles. While bladders appeared frequently in 17th-century Dutch painting they were depicted less frequently in 18th-century Britain. It was a motif that Wright made his own; the elaborate costumes that the boys wear are of the artist’s own invention, in the style of British “fancy pictures.” The dramatic pictorial effect created by the concentrated candle light within a dark interior setting was in vogue in much of Europe in the late 16th and 17th centuries, but it was not until the 18th century that English artists picked up the theme, Wright being among the first to do so.

Wright is famed for his nocturnal scenes. His “Candlelight Pictures” used a single candle in the center of the canvas as the sole light source to create high-contrast scenes of people clustered around a subject (the Borghese Gladiator, an orrery, a kitten) in rapt attention. Wright deployed the dramatic chiaroscuro effect pioneered by Caravaggio in his religious themed paintings for the Enlightenment interests of science, philosophy, natural history in domestic settings. Joseph Wright made the Enlightenment literal with his inky black and warm, textured light illuminating the big and small wonders of the Age of Reason, and his works were immediately popular, reproduced as large-scale prints and widely sold.

Wright’s engaged the scientific approach in his method as well as his subjects. His niece explained his inventive technique for creating nocturnal scenes:

“His mechanical genius… enabled him to construct an apparatus for painting candlelight pieces and effects of fire-light. It consisted of a framework of wood resembling a large folding screen, which reached the top of the room, the two ends being placed against a wall, which formed two sides of the enclosure. Each fold was divided into compartments, forming a framework covered with black paper, and opening with hinges, so that when the object he was painting from was placed within the proper light, the artist could view it from various points from without.”

He made the canvas itself something of an scientific experiment, layering metal leaf underneath the focal lit area of the painting, in this case the bladder. This was a technique Wright invented to use the reflective properties of the metal to boost the shine of the faux candlelight through the layers of paint.

When another candlelight picture, An Academy by Lamplight, sold at Sotheby’s in 2017 for just under $10 million (a new record for a piece by Wright), the Arts Council recommended the government impose an export bar in the hope a British institution might raise the large sum needed to keep the painting in the country. None did and the work is now in a private collection somewhere. This time around, the Arts Council let it go without a fight.

“Two Boys with a Bladder is a remarkable discovery that sheds new light on Wright’s work at the most important moment of his career,” said Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. “It is a compelling example from his most important and successful genre, candlelight paintings. Moreover, Wright’s innovative experimentation with the use of metal foil embodies a sense of technical and scientific exploration that typifies the intellectual milieu of the midlands on the eve of the industrial revolution. It is a major addition to the Getty’s holdings of art from the English golden age.”

Share

Navigation

Search

Archives

March 2020
S M T W T F S
« Feb    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Other

Add to Technorati Favorites

Syndication