Categories
Art

From the Collection—English Posset Pot

This unusual form with an even odder name begs the question: what is a posset pot?

Posset pots were specially designed for the consumption of a warm, spiced drink popular from the Medieval period into the 19th century. The nourishing beverage, posset, was used to strengthen new mothers, the sick, or the elderly. Though it turns my stomach slightly to think of it, a good posset recipe should result in several layers caused by curdling.  The drink is made from milk beaten with eggs, sugar, and spices and curdled with ale or wine, but bread could be added to thicken it. The curdled milk rises to the top, the eggs create a custard mid-layer, and at the bottom is a warm spicy alcoholic drink, accessible only through the straw-like spout of a posset pot’s distinctive shape.

Categories
Art

From the Collection: Sofonisba Anguissola’s “The Artist’s Sister”

Sofonisba Anguissola, The Artist’s Sister Minerva Anguissola, ca. 1564 (detail). Layton Art Collection, Gift of the Family of Mrs. Frederick Vogel, Jr. Photo by P. Richard Eells
Sofonisba Anguissola, The Artist’s Sister Minerva Anguissola, ca. 1564. Layton Art Collection, Gift of the Family of Mrs. Frederick Vogel, Jr. Photo by P. Richard Eells

The work of an art historian or curator can sometimes be like that of a master investigator or CIA agent. For example, a trail of clues led to the probable identification of the woman in this painting by Sofonisba Anguissola. Anguissola is one of the earliest identified female artists, working in Italy in the late 1500s. Rare for the Renaissance, Anguissola was famous in her own time and worked as the court painter for the King of Spain, a job she secured thanks to the portraits of her family that she’d painted as she grew up and honed her skills. The girl in this image is the spitting image of many of Anguissola’s family members, with her round face, large hooded eyes, and long nose. But Anguissola had five sisters and two brothers, so who is this?

Categories
Art

From the Collection—Marcel Breuer’s Reclining Chair

My favorite design objects are those that ring familiar, but also offer a story-telling twist, like Marcel Breuer’s aluminum Chaise Longue No. 313–or Reclining Chair–in our Museum’s permanent collection.

Categories
Art

Reasons Why the Art World is Small

This morning, on my way back from the docent room, I stopped at the crossroads of the main drag of the Museum’s offices. About to turn right to my cubicle, I found myself suddenly stopped by this painting, which hangs at the end of the hallway next to our director’s office. I see this painting at least twice a day, but I’d never stopped to really look at it. And so, I decided to investigate.

Categories
Art

“Well-behaved women seldom make history”

In the spirit of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous quote, I would like to introduce you to one of the most notorious women in the Museum – the Marchesa Luisa Casati.  According to her biographers, the Marchesa is the most depicted woman in art history after Madonna, Eve, and Helen of Troy.  It doesn’t hurt to mention that she commissioned as many artists as she could for a huge gallery of her own portraits in her lavish, international party center of a house.

Categories
Art Education

Docent Diary: The Two Majesties

Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Two Majesties (Les Deux Majestés), 1883. Layton Art Collection, Gift of Louis Allis L1968.82.

From Museum docent Carl Becker: On a recent “Weather and Seasons” tour with fourth graders, we stopped in front of The Two Majesties to discuss the painting and the North African desert location. I asked the children how they would feel in the environment depicted in the painting.

Categories
Art Curatorial

Painting the Gallery Walls

Preparations for the design of an exhibition begin many months, sometimes years, in advance of installation. For us at the Milwaukee Art Museum, planning for the placement of art in our main exhibition begins the minute the previous exhibition opens. For instance, when Street Seen opened in January, the next week the exhibition designer removed little to-scale black and white photographs from the gallery model, and our team went to work carefully placing pictures of miniature quilts for the summer’s American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection exhibition.

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Art

Impressionist Masterpieces—With and Without Milk

High school students make van Gogh’s The Starry Night in breakfast cereal, 2010 AP Photo/The Herald Journal, Alan Murray.

A group of students in Smithfield, Utah, completed a 6,400 square-foot replica of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night out of breakfast cereal. We encourage all ways of connecting to great art, but this one jumps to the top of my list in terms of deliciousness. I’m sure the pigs (who reportedly later ate the cereal) would agree.

Categories
Art

Art In Bloom Setup

Two florists composing their arrangement, showing a plastic sheet that catches any drips of water

Today is one of the most favorite and least favorite days for the Museum’s curatorial staff. Today kicks off the annual Art in Bloom event, when our Garden Club invites floral designers to install flower arrangements based on works of art in our galleries. Yes, IN OUR GALLERIES. Conservators, registrars, and curators immediately connect “bugs” and “water” to flowers, so our team carefully monitors this popular event so it can occur without incident to the art in the Collection.

Categories
Art

Abstract Expressionist Stamps—Get Yours Now

U.S. Postal Service “Abstract Expressionist” Stamps

Perhaps I was the only one that immediately dropped everything and ran to the post office, but I wasn’t the only mail-sending art lover thrilled with the U.S. Postal Service’s latest stamps. In March, the USPS released a sheet honoring American “Abstract Expressionist” painters.  These ten artists, some of the greatest of the twentieth century, moved the United States to the forefront of the international art scene (for the first time) in the 1950s. We have many of their works on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum.