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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Margaret, Lady Tufton by Anthony Van Dyck and Studio

Anthony van Dyck and Studio. Margaret, Lady Tufton, ca. 1632. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Vogel. Photo credit John R. Glembin
Anthony van Dyck and Studio. Margaret, Lady Tufton, ca. 1632. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Vogel. Photo credit John R. Glembin

Recently brought out of the vault for display in Gallery #5 is a portrait of Margaret, Lady Tufton (1636-1687).  A beauty of the English court, she was the granddaughter of Edward, 1st Baron Wotton, a diplomat and court official for Queen Elizabeth I.

Margaret is shown in her elegant silk gown (which is actually an informal dress because of the loose, flowing fabric and lack of lace collar and cuffs; it shows a significant amount of bare skin!).  She has beautifully arranged curls and wears expensive matched pearls.  To accentuate her loveliness, she holds delicate roses in her lap.

When this painting entered the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection in 1956, it was heralded as a masterpiece of the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641).  Van Dyck was one of the greatest portrait painters of all time. He influenced generations of later portrait painters, including Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727-1788).  Using brilliant brushwork, elegant compositions, and luscious textiles, he gives his subjects an easy aristocratic air while still making it clear that they are beautiful, virtuous, and powerful.

But now the artist of this work is listed as “Anthony van Dyck and Studio.”  What does this mean?

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Art Collection Curatorial European Exhibitions

From the Collection–Girl in Straw Hat (Femme au Chapeau Rouge) by Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947), Girl in Straw Hat (Femme au Chapeau Rouge), 1903. Oil on canvas; 15 1/8 x 17 5/8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1958.13. Photo credit P. Richard Eells. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947), Girl in Straw Hat (Femme au Chapeau Rouge), 1903. Oil on canvas; 15 1/8 x 17 5/8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1958.13. Photo credit P. Richard Eells. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

The Museum’s current exhibition Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and his Contemporaries features a number of posters by Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947)—including the fantastic France-Champagne lithograph, a work that inspired the master Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to make ground-breaking posters.

Did you know that the Museum’s Permanent Collection has two paintings by Bonnard?

The paintings are gorgeous, and can be found on the upper level in the Bradley Collection Galleries.

One of the two paintings, Girl in Straw Hat (Femme au Chapeau Rouge), has long been one of my personal favorite artworks.  I suspect that Girl in Straw Hat was also one of Mrs. Bradley’s favorites, and there is good reason why.

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Art Collection Curatorial European

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.

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Art Collection Curatorial European

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 Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Wilhelm Trübner’s “Salome”

Salome Wilhelm Trübner 1898 Oil on cardboard 39 3/4 x 21 in. (100.97 x 53.34 cm) Purchase, René von Schleinitz Memorial Fund M1978.2
Wilhelm Trübner (German, 1851–1917), Salome, 1898. Oil on cardboard, 39 3/4 x 21 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, René von Schleinitz Memorial Fund, M1978.2. Photo by Larry Sanders.

German artist Wilhelm Trübner’s depiction of Salome shows the New Testament character brazenly nude, holding the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

When this painting by an admittedly-minor artist was recently rotated into the permanent collection gallery #11, it was hung alongside masterpieces by Monet and Caillebotte. I was stunned that my eyes left Boating on the Yerres to look instead at this girl, Salome, painted in vibrant colors with dramatic light and shadow on the model’s skin.

I was also stunned that after a childhood of of attending Sunday school, I needed to turn to Wikipedia to learn more about Salome.

I learned that this temptress-of-legend has been the inspiration for everything from an Oscar Wilde one-act play to a B-side song by U2.

The Biblical story explains that Salome, daughter of Herodias and therefore stepdaughter of King Herod Antipas, danced to entertain and seduce the ruler of Galilee at his 1st century AD birthday celebration. Her dance survives in our cultural imagination as the “Dance of the Seven Veils,” during which seven veils are sequentially and tauntingly removed. You can watch femme fatale Rita Hayworth performing the dance in her 1953 film Salomé.

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Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection—Charlotte-Françoise DeBure by Catherine Lusurier

Charlotte-Françoise DeBure PAINTINGS Lusurier, Catherine French, 1752-1781 1776 Oil on canvas H. 29 1/2 x 24 in. Bequest of Arthur & Noryne Riebs (M1959.80)
 Catherine Lusurier (French, ca. 1752-1781), “Charlotte-Françoise DeBure”, 1776. Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 24 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Bequest of Arthur & Noryne Riebs. (M1959.80) Photo by Larry Sanders.

One thing to keep in mind when you look at art is not to trust the labels. Well, I don’t mean the labels that museums put on the wall next to the artwork–we try to make those as accurate as possible. I mean that you should not trust the little metal plaques that sometimes decorate the frames of many older artworks. Why? Let me tell you one an example.

Tucked in one of the side niches in the Museum’s 18th-century French room, Gallery #8, is a painting of a young girl. Decked out in her lace finery, her blonde hair pulled back with a pink ribbon in that matches her pink dress and posed with a basket of flowers, she is the epitome of a blushing sweet child.

The ornately carved frame has a metal label at center bottom that reads “H. DROUAIS, le fils”. You’d assume this must be the artist or the subject. But upon looking at the Museum’s object label, you see that the painting is a likeness of young Charlotte-Françoise DeBure by the artist Catherine Lusurier, who lived from about 1753 to 1781. Neither of them is named Drouais.

So, what’s going on with that frame plaque?

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Art

From the Collection: Kees van Dongen’s “Woman with Cat”

Kees van Dongen, Woman with Cat, 1908 (detail). Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley. Photo by Richard Eells. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Kees van Dongen, Woman with Cat, 1908. Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley. Photo by Richard Eells. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I am consistently drawn to this painting because one of my cats looks just like Kees van Dongen’s long, lithe black feline in this painting. While thoughts of my beloved pet (and admittedly, attempts to push away considerations of my possible future as a cat lady) are initially what strike me as I approach this work, the reason I continue time after time to get up close and study it is not its subject, but that color.