Archive for August, 2011

Indy, Rockwell and WWI veteran unemployment

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Norman Rockwell's first Collier's cover, 'War Hero Job Hunting'A couple of months ago I wrote about an original Norman Rockwell oil painting that had been brought in for appraisal to the Antiques Roadshow in Eugene, Oregon. The painting of a poor young girl dressing up as a fine lady would be published on the cover of Collier’s magazine on March 29, 1919, after The Saturday Evening Post (and every other mag of decent circulation) had rejected it. I noted that Rockwell’s first Collier’s cover, “War Hero Job Hunting,” had also been rejected by other publishers as too controversial a subject.

I asked:

Norman Rockwell’s first Collier’s cover illustration depicts a uniformed World War I veteran being welcomed home by his father and little brother. I’m not sure why it was controversial enough to get rejected by the bigger magazines. The war wasn’t officially over yet — the Versailles Treaty would officially end the war on June 28, 1919 — but armistice had been declared on November 11, 1918, so troops were already coming home and looking for civilian work. Maybe they thought the title implied something malicious, like the war hero is a slacker, or that it described a social problem of veteran unemployment?

Yesterday, while researching the post on the Indiana Jones map, I got my answer. It’s the latter. Disabled American Veterans, the organization artist Matt Busch will be donating the map proceeds to, was founded as the Disabled American Veterans of the World War (DAVWW) on September 25, 1920 to support soldiers who had been injured fighting in World War I and who returned home facing immense physical, psychological and bureaucratic hardships.

Certificate given to all WWI veterans wounded in action, by E.H. Blashfield, commissioned by Woodrow WilsonAmong many other accomplishments, the DAVWW advocated consolidation of veteran’s programs currently spread out under the jurisdiction of three agencies, the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, the Public Health Service, and the Federal Board of Vocational Training. It was DAVWW lawyers who got a bill passed establishing the Veterans Bureau, later renamed the Veterans Administration, the predecessor of today’s Department of Veterans Affairs.

Medical advances allowed a great many more disabled veterans to return from Europe rather than die on the field as had been so often the case during the Civil War. They couldn’t just go back to their old jobs, though. Some of them were no longer physically able to do what they had done before, some had psychological challenges from the trauma of war, and all of them faced a collapsing economy. Within six months of armistice (November 11, 1918), 2,000,000 soldiers were released from military service, flooding the country looking for work.

DAV emblem, inspired by "Columbia" certificate and officially authorized by Wilson and BlashfieldAt the same time, factories that had been working at full pitch producing weapons, ammunition, uniforms, vehicles, all the complex requirements of wartime industry that had provided more than enough employment to anyone not fighting, shut down production overnight. As Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane wrote in a letter to his brother George on January 30, 1919:

The one thing that bothers us here is the problem of unemployment. We have not, of course, had time to turn around and develop any plan for reconstruction. Our whole war machine went to pieces in a night. Everybody who was doing war work dropped his job with the thought of [the Paris peace conference] in his mind, with the result that everything has come down with a crash, in the way of production, but nothing in the way of wages or living costs.

In an attempt to forestall the looming issue of unemployable disabled veterans, Congress had passed the Smith-Sears Veterans Rehabilitation Act on June 27, 1918. The bill established a vocational training program for injured soldiers while providing them with a stipend to live on while they learned a new trade. It was inspired by a number of popular state programs that retrained workers injured on the job, was the first federal statute to define legitimate disability, and was the precursor to the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the precursor to the far more successful G.I. Bill that would be passed after the next world war.

WWI amputees at a Red Cross event in 1919Unfortunately, the Veterans Rehabilitation Act did not provide the support necessary for the vast majority of disabled veterans. Thanks to an economy that had lost 43% of GNP by the end of 1918, the program was underfunded and swamped by the great numbers of soldiers returning home. Its requirements were also incredibly arcane. All the forms and hoops veterans had to jump through to enroll in the program were major challenges in a society that was still widely illiterate, and of the 675,000 who did apply less than half completed their training. A full 345,000 applicants were denied tout court.

The New York Evening Post, as conservative then as its descendant the New York Post is now, ran a series of articles by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Harold A. Littledale exposing the vast panoply of horrors experienced by veterans applying to the Federal Board of Vocational Training for support under the Rehabilitation Act. In December of 1920, Congressional hearings were held to investigate the board. You can read the full transcript of the hearings online, courtesy of Google Books, or just follow the link to a letter written by a veteran describing his brush with bureaucratic hell.

All these unemployed, increasingly desperate, war-hardened soldiers made people antsy. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had proved that socialism was no distant it’ll-never-happen-here fantasy, and an army of 2,000,000 — even missing a few thousand limbs — was a terrifying prospect to many. Here’s one example of that terror in a June 1921 New York Times article about the Industrial Workers of the World targeting unemployed veterans for their filthy red propaganda. Just a month later, another NYT article describes veterans as “storming” the Welfare Building in Bridgeport, Connecticut, demanding city jobs.

One fellow, Sergeant J.A. Kirk of the 117th Engineers of the Rainbow Division of San Diego, California, in March of 1919 proposed an interesting solution to the problem of widespread veteran employment: move them all to Baja California.

“I suggest a scheme by which we can all become independent. I propose that the 2,000,000 men or more who went to Europe to form ourselves into an organization, with sufficient capital to purchase Lower Callifornia. I am familiar with this undeveloped land, capable of a population of not less than 5,000,000 people which contains at present not to exceed 5,000.

“It has a climate that is unexcelled. It offers to the seeker after health or wealth the opportunity of no other country in the world. This great peninsula is wonderfully rich in gold, silver, copper, tin, onyx, marble and sulphur, none of which has been touched. The west coast of the entire country, lying along the pacific, is the finest citrus fruit country in the world, barring none. Stock raising could be carried on without cost to the owner. Grasses of the nutritious kind grow the year around.

“For agriculture, gardening, poultry, it has no superior. It must, however, be borne in mind that this country is practically virgin. Although it lies contingent to our own country and is only a few hours from San Diego by auto or coastwise boat, it offers to our soldiers an opportunity to pioneer, to build, to create a great State.”

That one didn’t pan out, I can’t imagine why.

So when The Saturday Evening Post‘s conservative editor George Horace Lorimer turned down Norman Rockwell’s “War Hero Job Hunting,” he wasn’t rejecting a wholesome image of a handsome returning hero being welcomed home by his proud father and awed little brother. He was rejecting socialism, revolution, and best case scenario, the prospect of 2,000,000 men suckling at the government teat.

The Archaeological Discoveries of Prof. Henry Walton Jones, Jr., Ph.D.

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Artist and visionary Matt Busch has created a masterpiece: a complete world map of every ancient artifact discovered by Professor Henry Walton Jones, Jr., Ph.D., aka Indiana Jones. When I saw every artifact, I mean every artifact Indy found in all four movies, all the video games, the Young Indiana Jones TV series, comics and the theme park rides. Everything.

Authorized by Lucasfilm to utilize the trademarked names and graphics of the Indy Jones oeuvre, Busch spent three years compiling the data and painting the map by hand.

There are 36 different archeological artifacts displayed, each illustrated where Indy discovered it, and numbered chronologically. Three legend sections list info on the artifacts, including name, city and country, year, title of the story the artifact was discovered in, followed by symbols. The Key chart lets you decipher those symbols for each artifact to see how the story was presented, be it film, novel, TV Episode, etc… In many cases, these stories have been delivered in multiple platforms. In other words, “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis” was at first designed as a video game, but later developed as a comic book, too…

In each of the four corners, Busch illustrated an exotic stone relief carving, each representing a cultural motif from one of the four Indiana Jones feature films.

The maps are movie poster size (2 feet by 3 feet) so you can use ready-made frames and spare yourself the hundreds of dollars in custom framing costs. Each poster sold will be signed and numbered by the artist, and this is a big deal because the print run is extremely limited. Only 255 of these maps have been made. Once they’re sold out, that’s all folks.

You can purchase your print on Matt Busch’s site for $59.95. All the proceeds will be donated to Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization that provides, among many services, physical and psychological rehabilitation for disabled veterans, food and shelter for homeless vets, transportation, job training, help navigating the VA bureaucracy and support for families.

If that doesn’t whet your appetite, this video by Matt Busch describing how the map came about should do the trick. Teaser: R2D2 helped.


Tomorrow I will relay how the spirit of Indiana Jones descended upon me while researching this post to answer a question I asked in an entry about something else entirely three months ago.


EDIT: It’s already sold out online. My apologies for the tease. I found the map last night when they were still available and didn’t refresh the page until after I’d posted. 😥 The only way to secure a copy now is by purchasing one in person at the Adirondack ComicFest in Old Forge, New York, November 11-13. Admission is $15 or $23. Veterans get in free on Veterans Day, Friday, November 11.

Was Hatshepsut killed by her skin care regimen?

Friday, August 19th, 2011

According to CT scans of her mummy, Egyptian queen and pharaoh Hatshepsut died of metastatic bone cancer in 1458 B.C. She was in her 50s by then, obese, probably diabetic, and had arthritis and bad teeth. (In fact it was a broken molar found in a box with her name inscribed on it that allowed her mummy to be identified in 2007.)

Now researchers at the University of Bonn’s Egyptian Museum have added a chronic skin condition to the list of Hatshepsut’s ailments and the lotion she used to alleviate the heartbreak of psoriasis may be what killed her. The museum has a vessel from her tomb in the Valley of Kings in its permanent collection. It was thought to contain perfume, but after two years of study researchers determined that it contained a skin lotion, and not just a light moisturizer either.

Michael Höveler-Müller, curator of the Egyptian collection, enlisted experts from the university’s radiology department to CT scan to flask. Once they had the lay of the land, Höveler-Müller had a professor from the ear, nose and throat clinic slip an endoscope inside the vessel to extract a sample of the contents.

Dr Helmut Wiedenfeld from the pharmaceutical institute was the next to help out, analysing the contents. It was quickly apparent that it contained palm oil and nutmeg oil. “I immediately thought that no-one would put so much fat on their face,” said Wiedenfeld.

But further analysis revealed that the substance contained many unsaturated fatty acids which are used to treat skin diseases.

“It has long been known that Hatshepsut’s family suffered from skin complaints,” said Höveler-Müller.

The mixture however also include tar residue, a substance now banned in cosmetics because it can cause cancer – but still used on prescription to treat chronic skin diseases.

If Hatshepsut did indeed suffer from a chronic skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, she would have applied that lotion repeatedly over the years thus exposing herself constantly to the same tar residue found in cigarette smoke.

There are no written records of her cause of death. After she died, her stepson and disgruntled co-ruler Thutmose III had references to her kingship erased. His resentment of the woman who had declared herself king early in his reign (some time between the second and seventh years of his taking the throne after the death of his father, her husband and half-brother Thutmose II) and then ruled for 22 years with him as nominal, but powerless, co-ruler, may be the reason her mummy was so hard to find. Howard Carter discovered her tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1902, but her sarcophagus was empty.

The tomb of her wet nurse, In-Sitre, however, included an unidentified female mummy with one arm posed in the traditional burial posture of Egyptian pharaohs. It was that mummy which was found to have an empty socket in her jawbone that exactly matched the broken molar in the wooden box. The box was found in 1881 along with a cache of royal mummies in a nearby temple and was inscribed with her name. The tooth had probably fallen out during the mummification process.

For sale: 1750s house, medieval skeleton included

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

A five bedroom, centrally located town house in charming downtown Visby, capital of the Swedish island of Gotland, has just gone on the market with quite the unique selling point: there’s an exposed skeleton in the cellar, perpetually at slumber in his glass-covered grave.

The house was built in the 1750s over the foundations of a Russian Orthodox church which was abandoned in the Middle Ages. The skeleton, dubbed Valdemar by the locals, was a parishioner, probably a Russian, who was buried in the crypt of the church in the 13th century. There’s also another skull in a glassed-in niche in the cellar. Excavations in the 1970s uncovered the church walls and the human remains, and also found evidence of human habitation on the spot going back 4000 years. How’s that’s for a historical property?

“The man is resting in consecrated, sacred ground so his soul definitely rests at peace,” Leif Bertwig, the real estate agent in charge of the sale, told The Local. Therefore no ghosts are listed in the realtor’s description.

“If any prospective buyers would be worried that he will haunt the house they have nothing to fear,” Bertwig said.

Way to scare off the ghost-loving clientele, Leif. You should be draped in ectoplasm and flitting around at showings.

The cellar is not accessible directly from the town house. Four houses, including this one, share a private central courtyard. Valdemar and the remains of the church can be accessed via a spiral staircase in the courtyard. The patio off the living room, a stone cobbled outdoor space featuring the remains of a medieval well, is right above Valdemar’s resting place. You can sip a beverage in front of your medieval well and remember that thou art mortal.

However historically valuable the silent houseguest may be, Bertwig thinks that his underground presence will not affect the final price of the property, with bidding starting at 4.125 million kronor ($652,000).

“It’s definitely not a negative thing, more like a curious detail. Buyers will more likely be attracted to what the house looks like and how it’s built,” said Bertwig.

It looks great. It was renovated in 2000 and has some contemporary elements that jar a little with the beautiful exposed wooden beams and plaster walls reminiscent of Tudor construction, but it still exudes history from every corner.

As an archaeological and a historical home, the property is protected by law. You can’t alter the foundation in any way. You can, however, Leif assures us, take some folding chairs and a table downstairs and enjoy a picnic with Valdemar.

Here’s the listing with a detailed descriptions of all the features and contact information should you have $652,000 burning a hole in your pocket.

British Museum gets in the manga business

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

The British Museum is publishing a manga — a Japanese comic — about intrepid ethnologist and archaeologist Professor Tadakusu Munakata’s adventures in mystery-solving at the museum. Professor Munakata was created by artist Hoshino Yukinobu in 1995. The first series, The Legendary Musings of Professor Munakata, ran in a monthly comic magazine in Japan until 1999. Five years later Yukinobu picked up the good professor’s adventures in the bi-weekly manga magazine Big Comic as The Case Records of Professor Munakata. That series is still going strong.

In 2009, Yukinobu went to the British Museum to collaborate on an exclusive new Professor Munakata adventure called Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, set in its hallowed halls. They put on an exhibit about the comic featuring Yukinobu’s original artwork and wall-sized reproductions of the Professor’s British Museum adventure.

Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure was published in Japan last year, and now it’s finally been translated into English for the rest of us.

Hoshino’s work is blend of science fiction and thriller, layered with a rich mix of western and Asian myth and history. […]

Munakata is also well-versed in the debate surrounding disputed objects such as the Parthenon marbles, the Rosetta stone, and the Benin bronzes. Meanwhile, the Lewis chessmen are key players in the story.

Munakata is against repatriating these objects, praising the British Museum’s history of collecting, and fostering public access. “I am one of many Japanese scholars,” he says, “who have benefited from that generosity.”

Other parts of the story are less cerebral. With Tintin-like sleuthing, the professor foils a bomb threat at St Paul’s Cathedral with megaliths hoisted from Stonehenge. At the British Museum he defeats a looter bent on destruction with a bulldozer.

The graphics are a stylish black and white and feature a series of ten episodes in which the Professor interacts some of the museum’s most famous artifacts like the Lewis Chessmen and the Rosetta Stone.

Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure was supposed to be available for sale on May 2 of this year, but there’s been some delay because it’s still listed as a pre-order on Amazon UK with no notice of when it’ll be shipped. In the US, Amazon doesn’t even offer it as a pre-order yet, but it says the publication date is October 31, 2011. You can sign up to be notified when it becomes available.

Stolen Rembrandt found in Encino pastor’s office

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

A drawing by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn stolen from an LA-area hotel Saturday night was found Monday night in the pastor’s office of Saint Nicholas of Myra Episcopal Church in Encino. The 11-by-6-inch ink drawing was on display in the hallway of the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey as part of an exhibit sponsored by the Linearis Institute which owns the piece. It was placed on an easel, not hung on a wall or fixed to the spot in any way.

The thieves took advantage of this setup to run a classic distract and grab. A “hotel guest” who seemed interest in purchasing one of the artworks on display distracted the curator and an accomplice yoinked the Rembrandt while his back was turned. The heist took all of 15 minutes, between 9:20 and 9:35 P.M.

The return of the purloined drawing was just as stealthy. On Monday night, an assistant priest at Saint Nicholas left the pastor’s office for a few minutes, leaving the door propped open. When he returned, there was a Rembrandt in the room. He notified the pastor, Reverend Michael Cooper, who in turn notified the police.

“Somebody may have driven by and seen the lights,” Cooper said in an interview.

Cooper, a former L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy who still serves the department as a volunteer chaplain, said he called authorities after his staff informed him of the discovery.

“The door was unlocked and propped open,” he said, adding his parishioners “had nothing to do with it.”

Asked to explain why a thief would leave a stolen picture at St. Nicholas’, he replied, “We are a church. It is a place of reconciliation.”

It’s rather nice to see thieves today respecting the principle of ecclesiastical sanctuary. It’s so old-timey.

The drawing, made by Rembrandt around 1655, is titled “The Judgement” and depicts a court scene with a judge pointing judgmentally at a man (a thief, perhaps?) prostrate on the floor before him. The Linearis Institute has examined the recovered work and confirmed that it is their missing Rembrandt.

Rembrandt is the second most popular art theft target after Picasso. According to Anthony Amore, chief of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, locus of the worst art heist of all time when in 1990 thieves broke in and stole 13 old master paintings including three Rembrandts, there have been 81 known thefts of Rembrandt pieces just in the past 100 years.

Listen to a fascinating interview with Mr. Amore (transcript here) wherein he discusses his recent book on the topic, Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Story of Notorious Art Heists:


Crazy Gauguin attacker attacks Matisse

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Susan Burns, scourge of early 20th century French artists, has struck again. Three months ago it was Gauguin’s evil breasts she assailed. This time her target was Matisse’s The Plumed Hat, which displays neither breasts nor a second woman for insane people to interpret as homosexual.

Here’s what happened according to the arrest affidavit sworn by police Lieutenant Dexter Moten.

On 5 August 2011 at approximately 12:50 PM a female, subsequently identified as Susan Burns, entered Gallery 43 on the Ground Floor of the West Building, National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. Burns then walked over to an oil painting by Henry Matisse entitled “The Plumed Hat” valued at 2.5 million dollars, grabbed both sides of the frame holding said painting and slammed the painting against the wall three times, damaging the antique original frame of the painting valued in excess of $250. No damage to the painting itself was immediately apparent.

(That frame appraisal sounds kind of low, as an aside. You could easily surpass that price framing your favorite Rush poster.)

Burns was arrested on the spot for felony destruction of government property, contempt of court, attempted theft, and unlawful entry. The contempt and unlawful entry charges are the result of her being barred from all museums and art galleries in Washington D.C. as a condition of her release after her attack on the Gauguin painting. She would have been guilty of contempt and unlawful entry simply from walking into the museum. Which raises the obvious question: why wasn’t she stopped at the door? Her picture should be plastered all over the security office.

After the attack she was held in a D.C. jail. At a mental observation hearing this week the judge declared her incompetent to stand trial and ordered her transfer to a mental health facility. She is now at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, rubbing elbows with the likes of John Hinkley, where she will be monitored closely. She was forcibly ejected from her own hearing today, however, so they’re going to have keep that monitoring going for a while, at least until her next hearing on September 7th and hopefully for far longer than that.

No word yet on why this modest lady wearing a large hat was her target.

3500 Punic coins found off Sicilian island coast

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Divers doing an inventory of underwater archaeological sites off the coast of Pantelleria, an island in the Straights of Sicily between Sicily and ancient Carthage (modern Tunisia), have found almost 3500 bronze Punic coins lying in the sand.

The inventory project started in June, with divers exploring the sea off the Cala Tramontana (the east coast of the island) in order to create an itinerary for scuba tourism. They expected to see ancient artifacts, especially ceramics and amphorae which the area is known for, but the enormous quantity of coins was unexpected. They first discovered just a few hundred Punic coins (already an immense treasure, of course), but then day after day they just kept finding more until they reached 3,422.

All the coins were minted between 264 and 241 B.C., the exact dates of the First Punic War, and they all have the same iconography: the Carthaginian fertility goddess Tanit wearing a wreath of wheat on the obverse, a horse’s head flanked by symbols like a star, letters and a caduceus on the reverse.

The coins were scattered on the sea floor relatively close to shore. There was no container or cache. Divers retrieved every individual coin by hand.

“Since all coins feature the same iconography, we believe that the money served for an institutional payment. Indeed, ordinary commercial transactions contain different kind of coins,” archaeologist Leonardo Abelli, director of the excavation, told Discovery News.

According to Abelli, the money, carried on a Carthaginian ship headed to Sicily, was destined to an anti-Roman movement. But something might have gone wrong during the navigation.

“They decided to hide the treasure on the bottom of the sea, in relatively low waters, in the hope to recover it later. Indeed, near the coins we found a large stone anchor,” Abelli said.

Pantelleria, called Cossyra in antiquity, was settled by Carthage in the early 7th century B.C. Its proximity to both Carthage and Sicily made it a valuable way station for Carthaginian shipping. The Roman Republic conquered the island in 255 B.C. during the First Punic War, but lost it again the next year. In accordance with the terms of the 241 B.C. Treaty of Lutatius, the peace treaty that ended the war, Carthage evacuated Pantelleria along with most of Sicily and the other islands in the Straights (Linosa, Lampedusa, Lampione and Malta).

Rome would eventually reclaim the island in 217 B.C., a year after Carthage sent Hannibal and his elephants over the alps starting the Second Punic War. Later, the rugged, windy island would see use as an exile destination for scofflaws of high rank and members of the Imperial family.

Body over 2000 years old found in Irish bog

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

The operator of a turf-milling machine uncovered human remains in the Cul na Móna bog near Portlaoise, County Laois, Ireland, this past Wednesday evening. The Bord Na Móna (the semi-public Peat Board responsible for harvesting Irish peat resources) employee saw the remains poking through the surface just before he drove the machine over the spot. As all Bord Na Móna workers are thoroughly trained in how to handle potential historic artifacts, he stopped and alerted the company which alerted the National Museum of Ireland.

Two naturally mummified legs were found sticking out of a leather bag. It’s thought that the torso and head decayed over thousands of years inside the bag, but the legs, directly in contact with the peat bog’s acidic water, cold temperatures and lack of oxygen, were preserved. The bog mummification process tans the skin, darkening it and giving it a leathery texture.

Ned Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum, notes that the body was deliberately deposited on that location. It wasn’t an unfortunate accident — bog bodies have been found grasping at branches as if trying to pull themselves out of a swampy pool — and Kelly thinks in all likelihood the body was ritually deposited as a human sacrifice. Initial examination of the remains suggest the person died between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago.

“We can’t tell if it is Iron Age, but it has been found on an ancient tribal boundary, a characteristic of other finds of Iron Age date,” [Kelly] said.

He said burying bodies on tribal boundaries was “an observed practice” during the Iron Age and this body did seem to fit to that description, though it was too early to be certain.

Museum staff were excited to have the chance to examine a bog body discovered in situ. Most of the time it’s turf-cutting that churns up finds and thus archaeologists don’t have the chance to examine them in context. Since they know exactly where the body was found, they can also examine a nearby mound which contains peat from the same area to recover any other human remains that might have wandered off.

As soon as possible, the body will be taken to the National Museum in Dublin for radiocarbon dating to determine its age and osteological analysis to determine its gender.

There is some excellent footage of the find in situ here. (Protip: the bog looks like an agricultural field, not like the swampy wetland of my imagination.)

Lost Madox Brown angels on display after 115 years

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Ford Madox Brown first displayed The Seraph’s Watch at the British Institution for Promoting Fine Arts exhibition in 1847. The painting depicts two cherubic, well, cherubs gazing lovingly at Christ’s crown of thorns and the rod used to scourged him. It sold to a collector by the name of Cook or Cock. The last time it was seen in public was at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society 1896 London exhibition, then it disappeared into the ether. Now, 115 years later, it’s been found in a private collection and is going on display again at the Manchester Art Gallery for their Ford Madox Brown retrospective next month.

The painting made a big impression at the time on Dante Gabriel Rosseti, the founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. In a letter to Madox Brown written in early 1848 (the same year Rosseti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) Rosseti wrote glowingly about The Seraph’s Watch and other works asked if he could study under him. Ford Madox Brown agreed to take him on as a pupil and assigned him The Seraph’s Watch as his first homework. Rosseti’s unfinished copy was also in private hands for years, but it was tracked down in 1971 and sold at auction in 2006 for £106,850 ($173,000).

That copy is the reason Julian Treuherz, Victorian art expert and curator of the Manchester Art Gallery Madox Brown exhibit, even knew what the original looked like when he found it in a private collection two years ago.

“When I saw the painting I knew instantly what it was. It had been regarded as lost but we all knew what it looked like from the copy made by Madox Brown’s pupil, Dante Gabriel Rossetti,” Treuherz, an expert in Victorian art, told Reuters.

“The amazing thing was that it was absolutely fresh. It had not suffered in any way and was in fantastic condition, which is important because Madox Brown was fond of repainting his earlier works in later styles,” he said.

The exhibition, Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer, is the first major retrospective of the painter’s work in more than 50 years. It focuses on the artist as a Pre-Raphaelite, a movement he was deeply involved with even though he declined Rosseti’s invitation to join the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in order to retain his artistic independence, and includes his two greatest masterpieces, Work (1852 – 63) and The Last of England (1852 – 55), notable for their realistic, unsentimental depiction of social problems, unique in Victorian art.

Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer runs at the Manchester Art Gallery from September 24, 2011 until January 29, 2012.





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