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Art Curatorial

From the Collection– “Head of a Noblewoman” tomb effigy

French, Head of a Noblewoman, 14th century. Marble; H: 11 3/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of The William Randolph Hearst Foundation through the Milwaukee Sentinel M1958.67. Photo by John Nienhuis.
French, Head of a Noblewoman, 14th century. Marble; H: 11 3/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of The William Randolph Hearst Foundation through the Milwaukee Sentinel M1958.67. Photo by John Nienhuis.

Just as you walk into the Museum’s Gallery #3 (Northern Renaissance artworks), on your right is a display case that holds a marble sculpture.

It’s an unobtrusive work labeled Head of a Noblewoman, French, 14th century.   I’m sure many Museum visitors have walked right by it and not even thought twice.  The most interesting thing for those that look closer may be the way the artwork is positioned in the case–it is shown lying down, not upright.

This sculpture is more than just a portrait of a French noblewoman.  It’s a portrait of the noble French woman from her tomb!

Originally, the Museum’s head sculpture would have been part of a full body sculpture of the woman lying down, and it would have rested above her tomb. You can be certain of this orientation because the back of her head is unfinished.

Although funerary portraits were used as far back as the ancient Egyptians, medieval Europe saw an explosion of them.  Examples are known from the 11th century, and by the 13th century they were filling churches and abbeys.  Of course, only those who could afford to have an elaborate tomb could have such an elaborate sculpture, so most examples are of kings, queens, and other nobility, including knights, such as Jean d’Alluye, whose tomb effigy is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child South German ca. 1550 Solnhofen stone 7 1/4 x 6 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (18.42 x 16.51 x 4.45 cm) Gift of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III in loving memory of his sister Grace Vogel Aldworth (1932-2002)
South German, Virgin and Child, ca. 1550. Solnhofen stone, 7 1/4 x 6 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III in loving memory of his sister Grace Vogel Aldworth (1932-2002), M2003.67. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Sometimes with the rush of the holiday season, it is nice to take a deep breath and spend some time on your own.

In that spirit, I’d like to consider a small-scale stone relief Virgin and Child, ca. 1550.  You’ll find it at the Museum tucked in a case in Gallery #3, with works of the Northern Renaissance.

The artwork, carved in stone, is done in low relief and is set into a wood and silk case with a two-part hinged cover.   The small size allowed the owner to hold it in the palm of his or her hand for private contemplation and prayer.  The case is probably a later replacement, but it certainly would have had something similar to protect it when slipped into a drawer or carried for devotion during travel.

And what a beautiful image to inspire! 

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Art

What is that big, orange thing, anyway?

Mark di Suvero (American, b. China, 1933) The Calling, 1981-82 painted steel height: 40 ft (1219.2 cm) Bluff Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Gift of Anonymous Donor through Milwaukee Art Museum M1981.305 © Mark di Suvero; Courtesy of Spacetime C.C.
Mark di Suvero (American, b. China, 1933), The Calling, 1981-82. Painted steel. Height: 40 ft. Bluff Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Gift of Anonymous Donor through Milwaukee Art Museum M1981.305. © Mark di Suvero; Courtesy of Spacetime C.C. Photo by Mel Buchanan.

Many people don’t know that The Calling by Mark di Suvero (the orange sunburst sculpture that sits at the lake end of Wisconsin Avenue) has been part of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s permanent collection since the sculpture’s creation in 1981.

The Calling has attracted a lot of attention and inspired quite a bit of dialogue by Milwaukeeans over the years, including here in an 2006 article that answers the question “Will they Move the Orange Sculpture”.

I’ve found that people either love it or they hate it, as summarized in this 2007 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article.

Recently the United States government indicated on which side of that line they stand: they awarded artist Mark di Suvero the National Medal for the Arts. You can read more about the awards at the National Endowment for the Arts website.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss

Auguste Rodin (French 1840-1917), The Kiss (Paolo and Francesca), 1886. Painted plaster 34 x 20 1/2 x 23 1/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Will Ross in Memory of Her Husband (M1966.117). Photo by Larry Sanders.

There is no ignoring it: today is Valentine’s Day.

There is also no ignoring the fact that love and lust have inspired terrific artwork. Perhaps the best artwork, if you are a romantic like me. I’m obviously not the first in the blogosphere to notice this–last week a sweet “10 Best Art Kisses of All Time” article made the email/Facebook/blog rounds. And, raise your hand if you ever had Gustav Klimt’s 1907 The Kiss on a poster? Me too.

In the Museum’s collection, a classic work to single out that focuses on art and love is the plaster cast of Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss (Paolo and Francesca). When I revisited The Kiss, my first question was:

Who are Paolo and Francesca?