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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection: An Illuminated Manuscript

French, Leaf from a Liturgical Psalter, early 14th century. Tempera, ink, and gold leaf on parchment. 6 3/8 × 4 7/16 in. (16.19 × 11.27 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Paula Uihlein M1932.108. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
French, Leaf from a Liturgical Psalter, early 14th century. Tempera, ink, and gold leaf on parchment. 6 3/8 × 4 7/16 in. (16.19 × 11.27 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Paula Uihlein M1932.108. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

Before the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, books were handwritten. Imagine… every time a copy of a text needed to be made, someone had to do it painstakingly by hand. In our world of quick reproductions and the ease of hitting “print”, this can be hard to believe!

The exhibition The Art of Devotion: Illuminated Manuscripts from Local Collections, on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum through June 16, 2019, aims to provide an introduction to these handwritten texts–called manuscripts–that were made in the middle ages and early Renaissance. A good number of those manuscripts are also illuminated, or decorated with gold, silver, and bright colors that make them literally look like they shine from within.

Ornamenting the Christian Bible and related texts reflected their holiness, as revealing the teachings of God. Monks and nuns would make the books in a scriptorium—or copying room—as a type of religious devotion. By the fourteenth century, commercial scriptoriums fulfilled the demand for books made by the aristocrats and nobles who commissioned them not only to use in private devotion but also to display their great wealth. As you can imagine, this leads to amazing and beautiful books!

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–An Update on Meissen

Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710), Two-Handled Urn, 1814-60. Porcelain with hand-painted overglaze decoration and gilding. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1962.248. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710), Two-Handled Urn, 1814-60. Porcelain with hand-painted overglaze decoration and gilding. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1962.248. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

It’s always exciting when new research comes to light!

Just last month, while preparing for a lecture on Meissen in the Milwaukee Art museum collection, I discovered new information related to an object from an earlier post, the Meissen urn at left.

When last researching the urn in 2015, I was pretty sure that it was made by Meissen Porcelain Manufactory, the important German company, because it was marked on the bottom with crossed swords in blue. It has the snake handles popular on these types of vessels, particularly in the nineteenth century. The scene on the vase is the Greek myth of the Calydonian boar hunt.

At the time, I thought that maybe our urn was a Meissen porcelain blank painted by a skilled artist not associated with the factory–this was based upon finding another vase with the same boar hunt online that was only identified as “German”.

But the high quality of the painting on our urn made it such a showpiece, that I was convinced that there was more to find. So, when I was asked to give a lecture on Meissen in the collection, I thought I’d take another look.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection—The Countess of Exeter by Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen

Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen (English, 1593–1661), The Countess of Exeter, ca. 1620. Oil on panel. Milwaukee Art Museum, Bequest of Catherine Jean Quirk M1989.68. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen (English, 1593–1661), The Countess of Exeter, ca. 1620. Oil on panel. Milwaukee Art Museum, Bequest of Catherine Jean Quirk M1989.68. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

It’s always so exciting to get a painting out of storage! I’m happy to report that a lovely seventeenth century portrait is newly on view in the Renaissance galleries (Main Level S103). It has been carefully cleaned and looks marvelous.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Francisco de Zurbarán’s Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin
Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664), Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, has been popular with museum goers since it entered the collection in 1958. This is probably not surprising, since Zurbarán’s work is infused with a humanity that connects instantly with viewers.

Some of this power derives from the fact that Zurbarán based his painting style on traditional polychrome sculptures found in Spanish churches. Just like his better-known contemporary, Diego Velazquez (Spanish, 1599–1660), Zurbarán’s hyper-realistic paintings helped to inspire devotion in seventeenth-century Catholic Spain. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how Zurbarán inspired devotion not only in seventeenth-century Spain, but also how he does it today.

Categories
Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Questions of Provenance–Stories Behind the Names

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s current feature exhibition, Milwaukee Collects, includes more than 100 objects from nearly 50 private collections in the Greater Milwaukee area. It offers an opportunity to see treasures that are typically not on public view. At the same time, it reminds us that the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection is part of a long tradition of collecting in the community. This is the third in a series of blog posts that will explore the provenance of selected artworks in the collection and how they came to be here.

Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (Dutch, 1824–1903), Low Tide at Zeeland, Scheveningen, ca. 1900. Oil on wood panel. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Samuel O. Buckner Collection M1919.28. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (Dutch, 1824–1903), Low Tide at Zeeland, Scheveningen, ca. 1900. Oil on wood panel. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Samuel O. Buckner Collection M1919.28. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

As we’ve explored in the past, in many ways the collection of any museum is the result of the interests of its donors. Here at the Milwaukee Art Museum, we have outstanding European decorative arts from the Renaissance and Baroque periods due to Richard and Erna Flagg. We can boast of one of the deepest collections of nineteenth century German art in the country because of the generosity of René von Schleinitz. And with the gift from Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley, we have a world-class collection of twentieth century art.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at a few of the local collectors of earlier generations that you probably don’t know. Their story is the story of Milwaukee.

And this is just the whirwind tour—some of these historical donors warrant a longer post in the future!