Now On View: Pietro Calvi’s Othello

See the installation of the Walters Art Museum’s newest acquisition, Pietro Calvi’s Othello, and learn more about the artwork.

This week, the Walters Art Museum installed Othello, Pietro Calvi’s stunning bronze and marble bust of Shakespeare’s tragic hero. The sculpture bears striking resemblance to Ira Aldridge, one of the first African-American actors in the nineteenth-century to play the role of Othello in Europe. Associate Curator of 18th- and 19th-Century Art, Jo Briggs, explains the significance of this exciting new acquisition below.

See how the piece was installed:

Continue reading Now On View: Pietro Calvi’s Othello →

The Oval Hours Manuscript

A remarkable manuscript has been loaned to the Walters, and is now on view. This fascinating book, known as the Oval Hours due to its distinctive shape, is on view in the third floor medieval galleries through May 21, 2017.

What makes this manuscript so unique is the approach of the artist, who provided the settings for key Biblical events but left them devoid of any human presence. These stage-like settings might have been intended to encourage mental and spiritual exercises, inviting the viewers to imagine themselves within the scene. Reading prayers was a way of connecting to the divine, and these images may have provided a more active way to imagine that connection, rather than passively looking at a scene where the spiritual connection is happening to someone else. Currently, the Oval Hours is open to a scene that traditionally illustrates St. John, who was exiled on the Greek island of Patmos, receiving a vision of the Apocalypse. But in this illustration, only a pen case, ink pot, and book remain—St. John is absent. From above, a divine hand holds out a book detailing the future Apocalypse, while other traditional imagery described in the Bible—such as the pillars of fire—dance in the air.

Oval Hours, with the Setting of the Revelation to St. John on Patmos / Artist: Bellemare Group; French (Tours), ca. 1525; Parchment with ink, paint, and gold / IL.2015.26.1, fol. 1v–2r, on loan from a Private Collection / Photo credit: Peg Callihan and Bernard Pobiak

Though this may seem to be an especially unusual way of depicting a Biblical event, there are a variety of ways artists could render it, and no two manuscripts are quite alike. In the gallery, the Oval Hours is displayed with two other manuscripts that take diverse approaches to this same theme. The Flemish Book of Hours (W.427), which is the most conventional of the three, depicts St. John seated while recording his vision of a seven-headed beast. The artist of the third manuscript, W.164, injects an element of wit into the episode—a mischievous demon is shown kicking over St. John’s ink pot.

Continue reading The Oval Hours Manuscript →

The Clothilde Missal

In 2016, the Walters Art Museum purchased a unique and fascinating Edwardian era manuscript from 1906, known today as the Clothilde Missal (W.934) after its creator Clothilde Coulaux. This exciting acquisition greatly enriches the Walters manuscript collection, which includes only a small handful of manuscripts made by women. Clothilde was a young French woman living in Molsheim, a city in German-occupied Alsace, France, and her lovely manuscript is a testimony to her artistic skill, imagination, and ability to find beauty in an uncertain world.

A self-portrait by the artist graces one of the last pages of the missal.

While the text of her manuscript is traditional and religious, Clothilde illustrates all 174 pages with a rich variety of imagery including not only devotional subjects, but also scenes of everyday life, music, feasting, courtship and child rearing, death, warfare, and regional architecture. Her religious illuminations often draw upon prints by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, and other early masters, as well as art she possibly encountered in her environment such as stained glass, sculpture, and liturgical instruments. Much of the other imagery, however, is uniquely her own, and seems to play around the edges of a text to which it does not entirely relate. Personal touches like her cat gazing out the window, or a tiny figure spilling an enormous ink pot, add whimsy and humor to the pages. The book is her canvas, and the text a background and excuse for her art.

Continue reading The Clothilde Missal →

Q&A with Katherine Kasdorf on Ferocious Beauty

Katherine Kasdorf is the Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow and curated Ferocious Beauty: Wrathful Deities from Tibet and Nepal with a team of educators, conservators, designers, and registrars. The exhibition features 12 paintings, sculptures, and ritual objects depicting deities that appear fearsome, but are meant to help their devotees. Their fearsome qualities are intended to frighten and conquer things that hinder the path to enlightenment. We caught up with Katherine to dig a little deeper into the meanings behind these works and what makes them so intriguing.


What was the purpose of these works/ How did people use them?

Continue reading Q&A with Katherine Kasdorf on Ferocious Beauty →

Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part III

The Walters recently launched a new website that houses its digital collection of manuscripts: manuscripts.thewalters.org. Featuring a user-friendly design, the site provides visitors with intuitive search options, including the ability to refine their search by date, geography, subject, culture, and more. 

Lynley Anne Herbert is the Robert and Nancy Hall Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Walters. She started working at the museum as a fellow in 2010, and was soon brought on board as a part-time cataloguer of Western manuscripts for the NEH-funded manuscript digitization project. It often took her and the digitization team up to two weeks to catalogue and digitize a single book.

Continue reading Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part III →

Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part II

The Walters recently launched a new website that houses its digital collection of manuscripts: manuscripts.thewalters.org. Featuring a user-friendly design, the site provides visitors with intuitive search options, including the ability to refine their search by date, geography, subject, culture, and more. 

Lynley Anne Herbert is the Robert and Nancy Hall Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Walters. She started working at the museum as a fellow in 2010, and was soon brought on board as a full-time cataloguer of Western manuscripts for the NEH-funded manuscript digitization project. It often took her and the digitization team up to two weeks to catalogue and digitize a single book.

Continue reading Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part II →

Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part I

The Walters recently launched a new website that houses its digital collection of manuscripts: manuscripts.thewalters.org. Featuring a user-friendly design, the site provides visitors with intuitive search options, including the ability to refine their search by date, geography, subject, culture, and more. 

Lynley Anne Herbert is the Robert and Nancy Hall Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Walters. She started working at the museum as a fellow in 2010, and was soon brought on board as a full-time cataloguer of Western manuscripts for the NEH-funded manuscript digitization project. It often took her and the digitization team up to two weeks to catalogue and digitize a single book.

Continue reading Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part I →

Try Out The New Mobile Guide

Visit the Walters Art Museum and try out the new Mobile Guide to discover the stories behind the collection.

Did you know that William T. Walters bought most of his art with money he made from a whiskey business? Or that William’s wife, Sadie, became the toast of high society by introducing the waffle iron? Visit the Walters Art Museum and try out the new Mobile Guide to discover the stories behind the collection. Through photographs, letters and historic material from the museum’s archives, get to know members of the Walters family—father William, wife Ellen, son Henry and their daughter Jennie. Read stories created around the themes of family, food, travel and collecting, while looking at important works of art in the galleries. The stories are modern-day reinterpretations, based on the lives of the Walters family, drawn from the museum’s archival records. Over time, the Mobile Guide will grow as new objects and stories are added.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  1. Bring your own device and use the Wi-Fi to go to mobile.thewalters.orgMobile_In_Hand_Photo
  2. Look for red labels near select works of art in the galleries. 00_Flashing_Sign-Labels-Square
  3. Enter the keywords you find to discover stories about the Walters family. 01-Enter_Keyword
  4. Collect all the keywords and discover more about the collection! 02-Explore_Story-400x464

    The Mobile Guide is generously supported by PNC Bank.

    Continue reading Try Out The New Mobile Guide →

Yemeni Heritage: Museums United for Yemen

Rich in natural resources and famed for its artistic traditions, Yemen is now a center of international concern. Since conflicts erupted in March 2015, nearly 3,000 civilians have died, and Yemen’s cultural heritage has been irreparably damaged. Under the sponsorship of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), museums around the world are highlighting Yemeni heritage.

Historians of the Greek and Roman world named ancient South Arabia, centered in present-day Yemen, Arabia Felix (“Happy Arabia”). They praised South Arabia’s fertile lands, which yielded grains, vegetables, fruits, and other commodities that were exported throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Between 1000 BC and the 6th century AD, South Arabian kingdoms prospered through a sophisticated economy based on long-distance trade. One such kingdom was Saba, the land of the Queen of Sheba, who, according to biblical traditions, traveled to Jerusalem to present King Solomon (10th century BC) with gold, precious stones, incense and other goods carried on Arabian camels.

Rich in natural resources and famed for its artistic traditions, Yemen is now a center of international concern. Since conflicts erupted in March 2015, nearly 3,000 civilians have died, and Yemen’s cultural heritage has been irreparably damaged. Under the sponsorship of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), museums around the world are highlighting Yemeni heritage for Yemeni Heritage Week (April 24-30, 2016). Follow #Unite4Heritage on social media to see what partner museums are doing to raise international awareness on the great richness of Yemen’s culture and history.

Continue reading Yemeni Heritage: Museums United for Yemen →

Unlocking a Fifteenth-Century Flemish Casket

This casket hasn’t been opened since Henry Walters first acquired it.

A fifteenth-century Flemish casket with scenes from romances was recently brought to the conservation lab to be evaluated for a possible loan to another museum. It is a rare example of painted and gilded locking caskets with secular imagery. Purchased from the Parisian bookbinder and antiques dealer Leon Gruel by Henry Walters, only a handful of similar examples are known.

This casket is made of wood covered with leather that has been cut to create images and designs.  Iron straps surround the exterior, and there is a large lock on the front, suggesting the casket was intended to hold objects of great value.  When it arrived in the lab, the casket was locked.  There is no key and no record of it ever being opened at the museum.

Continue reading Unlocking a Fifteenth-Century Flemish Casket →

Saving Time: Conserving a Cox Clock

There’s a magnificent cabinet clock in the collection of the Walters Art Museum. Until recently, little was known about how the clock and musical mechanism functioned. What type of timepiece was inside? Did it have an alarm or chime? Who made it and when?

Within the Walters Art Museum’s collection of timepieces, clocks, and watches there’s a clock that is said to have belonged to the dowager empress of Russia, Maria Feodorovna. Agate panels framed by elaborate rococo cage-work form the body of the clock, which contains a complex musical mechanism.

Conservation staff treated the clock to reduce silver tarnish and reattach some loose elements. This provided an opportunity to investigate the object further. Though it was known that the clock was assembled in a London workshop owned by James Cox, little was known about the timepiece and musical mechanism inside. What type of timepiece is it? What tune does the musical mechanism play? Who made them and when?

Continue reading Saving Time: Conserving a Cox Clock →

Q&A with Sara Shahabi

Graphic designer Sara Shahabi was commissioned by the Walters to create the title wall for Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts. We talked to Sara about how the title wall came to be, from concept to execution.

Sara Shahabi’s background in exploring experimental English and Farsi typography made her a perfect fit for executing the evocative title wall that greets visitors at the start of Pearls on a String. Her installation continues a theme in the exhibition that considers how artists, patrons, and poets form a constellation of relationships. In Sara’s work we see a contemporary expression of that theme, to compliment works from the Islamic courts of the sixteenth- and eighteenth-centuries. We talked to Sara about how the title wall came to be, from concept to execution.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading Q&A with Sara Shahabi →

Art Conservator Q&A with Julie Lauffenburger

Julie Lauffenburger, Director of Conservation and Technical Research shares her passion for conservation, curating the Gold in the Ancient Americas exhibition and her journey to the Walters Art Museum.

Why are you so passionate about preserving art?

I am a bit of a history nerd. Just ask my children—always a historic site wrapped into a family vacation! Preserving art to me is about preserving the legacy of human creativity: what makes us human and what is universal about all of us wherever we live. I have always been fascinated by material culture and have always wanted to travel and see the world; preserving art ensures that material culture from around the world will be there for future generations to discover. It makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger.

Continue reading Art Conservator Q&A with Julie Lauffenburger →

Conserving an Ottoman Helmet

Recently, while re-installing one of the exhibition cases of Islamic arms and armor, conservators noticed bright green corrosion around the copper rivets on one of the helmets. What was causing this corrosion, and could it be stopped?

Helmet engraved with floral patterns, before conservation treatment. Sixteenth century Ottoman Turkish or Persian. Walters Art Museum 51.1, acquired by Henry Walters, 1911.

Recently, while re-installing one of the exhibition cases of Islamic arms and armor, conservators noticed bright green corrosion around the copper rivets on one of the helmets. What was causing this corrosion, and could it be stopped?

Detail of corrosion on copper rivets, before conservation treatment.

The helmet engraved with floral patterns (WAM 51.1) was made sometime in the 16th century in Turkey or Persia (modern day Iran), and was purchased in 1911 by Henry Walters. A circular mark cut into the proper right side of the helmet indicates that it was once part of the Imperial Arsenal of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul.

Continue reading Conserving an Ottoman Helmet →

Rediscovering Color on an Ancient Relief

The fragment of an ancient Roman marble relief Attendant of Mithras with signs of the zodiac (23.238) recently came to the conservation lab, giving Walters Art Museum conservators a chance to learn more about its colorful original appearance.

The fragment of an ancient Roman marble relief Attendant of Mithras with signs of the zodiac (23.238) recently came to the conservation lab, giving Walters Art Museum conservators a chance to learn more about its colorful original appearance.

The fragment was probably carved sometime in the first century A.D.  It is part of one side of a much larger carved marble relief that likely depicted the Persian creation god Mithras flanked by his two attendants and torchbearers Cautes and Cautopates, surrounded by depictions of the twelve signs of the zodiac. This fragment shows one of the attendants holding his torch downward and parts of the zodiac signs for Capricorn, Sagittarius, and Scorpio.

Continue reading Rediscovering Color on an Ancient Relief →

The Walters Art Museum Celebrates #heartsforart

You showed your love by voting with a big pink heart or two on Super Thursday and Valentine’s Day. Are you ready for the surprising results?

You showed your love by voting with a big pink heart or two on Super Thursday and Valentine’s Day. Are you ready for the surprising results?

Super Thursday’s top three most-loved works are The Cat Mummy in the Collector’s Study, The Altarpiece with the Passion of Christ in the Northern European Gallery of our Medieval World section, and Trophime Bigot’s Judith Decapitating Holofernes (ca. 1640). On Valentine’s Day The Altarpiece again reigned supreme, along with the combination of the Marten’s Head and Veronese’s Portrait of Countess Livia da Porto Thiene and Her Daughter Deidamia. Our visitors weren’t shy about giving it up for Cordier’s African Venus, the late Medieval Crucified Christ in the Third Floor Lobby, and the inviting Banquet Couch in our Roman collection.

Continue reading The Walters Art Museum Celebrates #heartsforart →

ArtBytes 3 Recap

Thanks for another successful weekend of hacking the museum experience! This year, we asked participants to consider the audiences that their projects will target. Teams worked hard over the weekend and eight groups presented to qualify for a prize.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks for another successful weekend of hacking the museum experience! This year, we asked participants to consider the audiences that their projects will target. Teams worked hard over the weekend and eight groups presented to qualify for a prize. Below are the winners of the ‪‎ArtBytes‬ 3 museum hackathon:

Continue reading ArtBytes 3 Recap →

Walters Enthusiasts Super Thursday Scavenger Hunt

During this week’s Super Thursday Party, the Walters Enthusiasts is sponsoring a Scavenger Hunt Contest for a chance to win two tickets to see the musical Chicago at the Hippodrome or a $50 gift card to Cardinal Tavern.

Visit the Walters Enthusiasts Facebook page during the Super Thursday Party to find the scavenger hunt clues. Clues will be posted 5:30 p.m., February 12, 2015. Follow the prompts to find the correct works of art, take a photo, and have your photos vetted at the Walters Enthusiast table in the second floor lobby of the Walters Art Museum. The contest ends at 7:45 p.m. and two randomly picked winners will be announced at 8 p.m.

Continue reading Walters Enthusiasts Super Thursday Scavenger Hunt →

#ThrowbackThursday Postcards From the Walters

Postcards from the Walters was a weekly radio segment on Baltimore’s WYPR radio. Each week, former Director Gary Vikan explored the cultural and historical treasures of the museum. The segment features stories about the lives and the collection that make the legends of the Walters Art Museum. Vikan later used material from the segment as the basis for his book, also titled Postcards from the Walters.

Here are some Postcards from the Walters audio segments.

Continue reading #ThrowbackThursday Postcards From the Walters →

Declare Your Love for your Favorite Art with #HeartsForArt

What’s your favorite artwork at the Walters? Are you a fan of Faberge? Or maybe mummies make your day! Join us this Super Thursday Party and Valentine’s Day and vote with your heart.

heartsforartallthreeWhat’s your favorite artwork at the Walters? Are you a fan of Faberge? Or maybe mummies make your day! Join us this Super Thursday Party and Valentine’s Day and vote with your heart. Pick up one of our paper hearts on your way into the museum, and pick your favorites. Drop a heart in front of Judith and Holofernes or maybe Isis is more your jam. Share a selfie with your art valentine and tag your photos #‎HeartsForArt‬.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep tabs on votes and favorites.

Continue reading Declare Your Love for your Favorite Art with #HeartsForArt →

Revealing the Splendor of Gilded Lacquer

cleaning and treatment of several objects from the Doris Duke Collection of Southeast Asian Art

The Walters recently received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to perform the cleaning and treatment of several objects from the Doris Duke Collection of Southeast Asian Art. This collection, comprised of a variety of beautiful and unique pieces, has been in storage for some time, and many pieces require treatment. Conservator Stephanie Hulman, who is working on the pieces in the museum recently, shared some insight into the scope of the project and the work she is doing. Visitors can see her on the 1st floor of the museum, in the Special Exhibition Gallery, Wednesday to Friday, 1:30-4 p.m.

A large portion of Stephanie’s work involves a process called consolidation, which is a technique conservators use to re-adhere flaking media. Many of the pieces in the Duke collection have gilded lacquer surfaces, which can lift and flake in an improper environment. Conservators can carefully consolidate the lacquer layers, stabilizing them to ensure that the piece will remain in excellent condition for many years to come. In addition to consolidation, Stephanie and other conservators are cleaning some of the dust that has accumulated while the pieces were in storage, using carefully selected solvents and chemicals that will remove the dirt without harming the art underneath. One of the pieces, a Miniature Shrine, has been cleaned and can be seen in the gallery now in its full splendor, its gilded surface gleaming brightly.

Continue reading Revealing the Splendor of Gilded Lacquer →

Winners of the Walters Art Museum Selfie Contest

Thank you for everyone that participated in our first Museum Selfie Contest! The likes have been tallied and we have our three winners! Drum roll please…

Thank you for everyone that participated in our first Museum Selfie Contest! We’ve enjoyed seeing everyone interact with the museum in fun, new ways. The likes have been tallied and we have our three winners! Drum roll please…

FIRST PRIZE WINNER


@p00kumz has won:

Continue reading Winners of the Walters Art Museum Selfie Contest →

The St. Francis Missal

The St. Francis Missal (W.75) is, at first glance, a seemingly humble manuscript. Bound in undecorated wood and leather, its cover is worm-eaten and cracked. As a missal (a book containing the texts used in the celebration of the Mass), it was primarily meant to be read from by the priest during the church service, and thus designed to be functional rather than lavish. Why, then, is this book one of the most intriguing in The Walters’ collection, as well as one of the most popular, visited by many from around the world each year?

The St. Francis Missal (W.75) is, at first glance, a seemingly humble manuscript.  Bound in undecorated wood and leather, its cover is worm-eaten and cracked. As a missal (a book containing the texts used in the celebration of the Mass), it was primarily meant to be read from by the priest during the church service, and thus  designed to be functional rather than lavish.  In all aspects of its production, it is a typical example of missals produced in Italy in the late 12th – early 13th century. Why, then, is this book one of the most intriguing in The Walters’ collection, as well as one of the most popular, visited by many from around the world each year?


Venetian (Artist) / Pages from The St. Francis Missal / 1172-1228 (Medieval) / Acquired by Henry Walters / Not on view

Continue reading The St. Francis Missal →

Walters Museum Selfie Contest

Get those smart phones ready and pose with your favorite artwork at the Walters. We are giving away fun prizes to the best “museum selfies” taken at the Walters!

WINNERS HAVE BEEN PICKED! CONGRATS TO OUR TOP 3!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Walters staff demonstrate their #museumselfie talents.

Continue reading Walters Museum Selfie Contest →

A Rifle Fit for a Sultan

Every item in the collection, like this Turkish Hunting Set, tells a story. Curators and conservators work to piece it together, examining each item’s history, composition, and necessary treatment. They unearth countless stories, fit together jigsaw puzzles of broken pieces, remove centuries of dirt and tarnish, and so much more. Using a range of techniques, technologies, and sciences, they study and repair items so they can continue to be enjoyed and explored for generations to come.

Turkish Hunting Set / 1732-33 /  Acquired by Henry Walters, 1903

X-ray images have revealed an additional hidden compartment in the rifle which was sealed long ago. What’s inside? What was it used for? Only further research can answer those questions. And for that we’ll need your help!

CONTRIBUTE NOW

Continue reading A Rifle Fit for a Sultan →

The Science of Display Cases

Roman  /  Aged Herakles  /  1st c. BC-AD  /  Acquired by Henry Walters

Conservator Katie Posthauer has been working for two years on a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to help identify and replace display cases in most need of updating to current conservation standards. Some of the display cases throughout the galleries at the Walters are older than others, and are made of less-stable materials than what is available now. This means that the conditions inside the case aren’t always ideal for the objects on display. Katie’s job has been to work with other conservators to determine which cases are at the highest risk and to replace them.

Once a case has been identified for replacement, the objects inside are removed from the gallery and a new case is built using the best materials available. This includes a special silica gel (similar to the little packets you’d find in your new shoes), special acrylic, and other pieces. The environmental conditions inside each case are carefully monitored, and even the fabric on the floor of the case is carefully tested to ensure that it cannot harm the object on display. Once the new case has been built and is ready, each object is removed and is cleaned.

Continue reading The Science of Display Cases →

Conserving a 16th Century Feathered Triptych

A triptych depicting St. Jerome and the Four Evangelists embellished with hummingbird feathers was acquired by Henry Walters in 1914, and has never been on display at the Walters. The object is currently undergoing analysis and cleaning of the decorative hummingbird feathers in the conservation lab.

 

St Jerome in Penance and the Four Evangelists (Detail)
St Jerome in Penance and the Four Evangelists (Detail)

Saint Jerome in Penance and the Four Evangelists (61.104) was acquired by Henry Walters in 1914, and has never been on display at the Walters. The object is currently undergoing analysis and cleaning of the decorative hummingbird feathers in the conservation lab. The triptych is a fusion of Christian iconography and Aztec featherworking techniques, which was an adaptation encouraged by the mendicant orders during the early Spanish colonial period (1519 -1600 AD) in Mexico.

Continue reading Conserving a 16th Century Feathered Triptych →

A Brief History of the Hackerman House

Built for Dr. John Hanson Thomas, the great-grandson of John Hanson, President of the Continental Congress, The Hackerman House represented the height of elegance and convenience in the mid-nineteenth century.

Built for Dr. John Hanson Thomas, the great-grandson of John Hanson, President of the Continental Congress, The Hackerman House represented the height of elegance and convenience in the mid-nineteenth century. Renowned guests include the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and General Kossuth. In 1892, Mr. and Mrs. Francis M. Jencks purchased the home and remodeled it extensively under the direction of Charles A. Platt. The graceful circular staircase was widened and the oval Tiffany skylight installed in the coffered dome. The bow window in the dining room was added and the entire house was decorated in the Italian Renaissance style.

Following the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Jencks, the house was used as headquarters for various civic organizations and fell into a state of neglect and disrepair. Mr. Harry Leo Gladding purchased the building in 1963 and painstakingly restored it to its former elegance. Willard Hackerman purchased the building at 1 West Mount Vernon Place in the late 1980’s from the estate of its last owner, Harry Gladding. Mr. Hackerman was concerned with the possibility that the architectural anchor of Mount Vernon Place might be converted to commercial use. Story has it that he took the keys and placed them on the desk of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. In true Schaefer fashion, the Mayor held a contest to determine the best use of the historic structure. The Walters won the competition with a proposal to convert the house into galleries for its growing and important collection of Asian Art. Hackerman House opened in the spring of 1991. Mr. and Mrs. Hackerman have generously supported the Walters for many years and his firm, Whiting-Turner, has been the contractor for many of our additions and renovations. Over the years, he was a friend and mentor to our directors and Board members.

Continue reading A Brief History of the Hackerman House →

600 American Artwork Images Available for Download

Alfred Jacob Miller / Mrs. Keller as the Goddess of Liberty / 1855-1859 / Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. William Middendorf, II, 1968
Alfred Jacob Miller / Mrs. Keller as the Goddess of Liberty / 1855-1859 / Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. William Middendorf, II, 1968

Thanks to a $111,615 grant from the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Walters Art Museum has successfully catalogued and digitized more than 600 American paintings, drawings and portrait miniatures for the museum’s online collection. Rarely seen works from John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt and John La Farge, among others, are now available for download and public use at art.thewalters.org.

In conjunction with this project, our spring focus exhibition, American Artists Abroad, April 19–June 22, will highlight works from our rich collection of American art. “Rather than simply reacting to what they saw, American artists often successfully reinvented themselves through their time abroad without losing sight of their connection to home,” said Jo Briggs, assistant curator, 18th and 19th century art. “This exhibition showcases beautiful works collected over more than a century, and now, consistent with the Walters’ continuing mission of access and outreach, they are available online for everyone to enjoy.”

Continue reading 600 American Artwork Images Available for Download →

We’re on the Move

Watch for new juxtapositions, fresh interpretation, and new ways of engaging with the Walters collections. This summer, beginning June 23, the galleries housing 19th-century art on the fourth floor of the Centre Street building will be closed for renovation.

We’re on the move. Watch for new juxtapositions, fresh interpretation, and new ways of engaging with the Walters collections.

This summer, beginning June 23, the galleries housing 19th-century art on the fourth floor of the Centre Street building will be closed for reinstallation. The fourth floor will reopen October 26 with a new installation focused on the life and legacy of the museum’s founders, William T. (1819–1894) and Henry (1848–1931) Walters. Special member hours will be Thursday, October 23, from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, October 25, from 5 to 10 p.m.

Continue reading We’re on the Move →

Catalogue Giveaway

Each week, from March 26, 2014 until April 29, 2014, we will give away a copy of Japanese Ceramics for the Twenty-first Century, the accompanying catalogue for our special exhibition, Designed for Flowers: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics. All you have to do is to participate in the week’s fun and easy social media challenge, follow us (if you haven’t yet) and tag it with #FreeArtBook to qualify!

FreeArtBookGiveaway

Each week, from March 26, 2014 until April 29, 2014, we will give away a copy of Japanese Ceramics for the Twenty-first Century, the accompanying catalogue for our special exhibition, Designed for Flowers: Contemporary Japanese CeramicsAll you have to do is to participate in the week’s fun and easy social media challenge, follow us (if you haven’t yet) and tag it with #FreeArtBook to qualify!

Continue reading Catalogue Giveaway →

Further Revelations on the Walters and its connection to the Monuments Men

Recently, our conservation department has discovered another important connection to the Monuments Men:

This past Sunday, February 9, our auditorium was packed to the rafters for our lecture Monuments Man: The Walters’ Marvin Chauncey Ross. Michael Kurtz, National Archives expert, recounted how the “Monuments Men” tracked and located nearly five million European artworks and cultural treasures stolen by Hitler and the Nazis during WWII. Among them was Marvin Chauncey Ross (1904–1977), the Walters’ first Curator of Medieval Art and Subsequent Decorative Arts. Melissa Wertheimer, Walters’ archives assistant, also shared her fascinating discoveries while researching the Marvin Ross papers at the Walters.

Continue reading Further Revelations on the Walters and its connection to the Monuments Men →

ArtBytes 2014: Team ‘Scantasia’ 3D Scans Sculptures

Over the weekend of Jan 24-26, 2014, the Walters Art Museum held its 2nd annual ArtBytes “hackathon” for the creation of awesome techie projects around art.  This post showcases the efforts of Team Scantasia, which performed 3D scanning demonstrations of various museum sculptures for potential applications for conservation, restoration, and amazing online 3D public display and interaction.

The following links allow the viewer to interact with the 3D digital data captured during this weekend by various 3D scanners supplied by the team at Direct Dimensions.  These models are hosted on Sketchfab, a new interactive 3D viewing website for hosting this type of 3D data for these sharing purposes.

Continue reading ArtBytes 2014: Team ‘Scantasia’ 3D Scans Sculptures →

The Walters Art Museum’s Unsung Veteran

Marvin Chauncey Ross was our Curator of Medieval and Subsequent Art from 1939 to 1952. In 1944 the young Ross, now a Captain, was called by General Eisenhower to join the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission (MFAA) to assist in the discovery and repatriation of artworks seized by the Nazi occupation forces throughout Europe.

MFAA Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle
MFAA Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle

As we remember the service of our friends and loved ones on this Veterans Day, I thought you might like to hear about the exploits of the Walters Art Museum’s most unsung veteran. Marvin Chauncey Ross was our Curator of Medieval and Subsequent Art from 1939 to 1952. In 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw combat in the South Pacific as Assistant Wing Officer with the first Marine Aircraft Headquarters.

In 1944 the young Ross, now a Captain, was called by General Eisenhower to join the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission (MFAA) to assist in the discovery and repatriation of artworks seized by the Nazi occupation forces throughout Europe. His expertise in art and also his language skills enabled his work, and one remarkable event in late 1944 is well worth recounting. He entered the Chateau of Haute Koeningsbourg, in the Alsace region of France where allied troops had identified a cache of artworks hidden by the Germans. On his inspection of the chateau, Ross discovered the Isenheim Alterpiece by Grunewald. It was protected by American forces until the end of hostilities and returned to the Unterlinden Museum in Alsace where it can be seen today. The MFAA units had an enormous task to locate and secure cultural treasures. They often worked alone, and arrived in locations immediately following fierce battles that took place as the Germans retreated. Two MFAA officers were killed in the line of duty.

Continue reading The Walters Art Museum’s Unsung Veteran →

Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe publication now available for download

The exhibition catalog for Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe is now available to view online or download.

The publication accompanying Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe is now available to view online or download.

Continue reading Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe publication now available for download →

From the Conservation Lab: Copper-Alloy Color Reconstruction of Three Ancient Egyptian Artworks

Recent research has shown that many ancient Egyptian metal objects were originally exuberantly colored, employing contrasting metal alloys or other inlays to highlight details or portions of a figure. These animated images show three ancient Egyptian artworks’ current condition and how they might have looked originally.

Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum, a special exhibition at the Walters Art Museum, gathers together a group of ancient Egyptian objects focused on the Faiyum region, including the illustrated papyrus book of the title, along with many statues and figures made of metal.  Just as the Book of the Faiyum holds untold secrets, many of the metal objects in the exhibition are more than meets the eye.

Recent research has shown that many ancient Egyptian metal objects were originally exuberantly colored, employing contrasting metal alloys or other inlays to highlight details or portions of a figure. Due to corrosion of the metal surface, many of these objects no longer appear as they did when they were first made and used.

Continue reading From the Conservation Lab: Copper-Alloy Color Reconstruction of Three Ancient Egyptian Artworks →

Have You Seen These Lost Works? The Search for Three Missing Woodvilles

Even though curator, Joy P. Heyrman, did extensive research to make sure every Richard Caton Woodville painting on record was on display for New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville, three remain “lost” and unaccounted for. Heyrman explains the last known whereabouts of these lost paintings:

Have you seen these lost works by Woodville?

Even though curator, Joy P. Heyrman, did extensive research to make sure every Richard Caton Woodville painting on record was on display for New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville, three remain “lost” and unaccounted for. Heyrman explains the last known whereabouts of these lost paintings:

Continue reading Have You Seen These Lost Works? The Search for Three Missing Woodvilles →

Unraveling the Mysteries of the Saint Amandus Reliquary

Museum conservators use modern technology to date and identify a 13th century Flemish reliquary. This large, church-shaped shrine once housed the relics of a 7th-century saint who served as a missionary and bishop to the western regions of present-day Belgium. St. Amandus (d. 679) also established a monastery at Elnon, near Tournai (western Belgium), where the monks later commissioned this reliquary to honor his remains.

See how Walters conservators use modern technology to date and identify this 13th century Flemish reliquary:

Learn more about the Walters’ Shrine of Saint Amandus, featured in the exhibition Treasures of Heaven. Visit this interactive presentation.

Continue reading Unraveling the Mysteries of the Saint Amandus Reliquary →

Conservation of the Bodhisattva Guanyin

The Bodhisattva Guanyin, a beautiful near-life-size figure, was a recent gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Made in China during the Ming period (early 15th–early 17th centuries), the sculpture made its journey from the Duke estate to the Walters 19th-century galleries, where it received treatment by the conservation department prior to going on view in the Hackerman House.

This late Ming dynasty dry-lacquer sculpture is an image of the bodhisattva Guanyin, an enlightened being venerated in Chinese Buddhism as an embodiment of compassion. Called a "Water-moon Guanyin" or "Guanyin sitting in Royal Ease," this theme and its iconography derive from textual inspiration found in the Avatamsaka Sutra (the central text of the Hua-yen school of Buddhism), and indigenous Chinese traditions. The dry lacquer technique was popular, but examples of this size and degree of refinement are rare. Chinese, late 14th-15th century, H: 50 x W: 34 1/4 x D: 22 5/8 in. Walters Art Museum, 25.256.
This late Ming dynasty dry-lacquer sculpture is an image of the bodhisattva Guanyin, an enlightened being venerated in Chinese Buddhism as an embodiment of compassion. Called a “Water-moon Guanyin” or “Guanyin sitting in Royal Ease,” this theme and its iconography derive from textual inspiration found in the Avatamsaka Sutra (the central text of the Hua-yen school of Buddhism), and indigenous Chinese traditions. The dry lacquer technique was popular, but examples of this size and degree of refinement are rare. Chinese, late 14th-15th century, H: 50 x W: 34 1/4 x D: 22 5/8 in. Walters Art Museum, 25.256.

Conservation of the Bodhisattva GuanyinThe Bodhisattva Guanyin, a beautiful near-life-size figure, was a recent gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Made in China during the Ming period (early 15th–early 17th centuries), the sculpture made its journey from the Duke estate to the Walters 19th-century galleries, where it received treatment by the conservation department prior to going on view in the Hackerman House.

Walters conservators have made some interesting discoveries about the piece. First of all, it is made using a hollow dry-lacquer technique, a layering technique similar to papier maché, but using Asian lacquer derived from tree sap. Cloth soaked in lacquer was used to model the initial form of the sculpture. Then layers of lacquer bulked with successively finer material were added to smooth the surface for eventual gilding. Beneath the gilding, red lacquer tinted with cinnabar, an ancient Chinese pigment, derived from mercuric sulphide, shines through. Now black overall, the hair was originally painted blue, and special attention was also given to his face, which was gilded as many as five times.

Continue reading Conservation of the Bodhisattva Guanyin →

This Sarcophagus Was Painted Red

While ancient marble sculptures are often thought of as pristine and white, we know that many were once painted with bright colors. This sarcophagus is no different. Recently, while removing plaster and other old restoration materials, conservators have discovered several areas of what is believed to be original red paint.

consweb2While ancient marble sculptures are often thought of as pristine and white, we know that many were once painted with bright colors.  This sarcophagus is no different.  Recently, while removing plaster and other old restoration materials, conservators have discovered several areas of what is believed to be original red paint.  Further research will help to determine what this ancient pigment was composed of, and conservators will continue to work cautiously to protect these areas.

The best preserved color is in the protected undercuts of the marble, visible in this photo as faint pink.  Also shown in the photo are accretions, which are evidence of root growth around the marble when it was buried in the ground.

Continue reading This Sarcophagus Was Painted Red →

Saving Silver

Where there’s silver, there’s tarnish. While getting the tarnish off your flatware might be an occasional inconvenience, to museum curators and conservators, it’s a threat to irreplaceable works of art.

To protect these objects for generations to come, scientists from the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, have teamed up with conservators from the Walters Art Museum to develop and test a new, high-tech way to protect silver art objects and artifacts, using coatings that are mere nanometers thick.

Where there’s silver, there’s tarnish. While getting the tarnish off your flatware might be an occasional inconvenience, to museum curators and conservators, it’s a threat to irreplaceable works of art.

To protect these objects for generations to come, scientists from the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, have teamed up with conservators from the Walters Art Museum to develop and test a new, high-tech way to protect silver art objects and artifacts, using coatings that are mere nanometers thick.

Continue reading Saving Silver →

An Ideal Climate for The Ideal City: Constructing an In-Frame Vitrine

Paintings are often requested for loans to exhibitions in other museums. To ensure that they remain in a safe, stable environment from the time they leave the Walters to the time they return, especially vulnerable paintings are enclosed in a climate-controlled, in-frame vitrine, made for the individual piece. The vitrine ensures that the encapsulated painting will remain in the Walters’ relative humidity outside the museum walls. Our video demonstrates the vitrine-making process on one of the Walters’ most famous paintings.

Paintings are often requested for loans to exhibitions in other museums. To ensure that they remain in a safe, stable environment from the time they leave the Walters to the time they return, especially vulnerable paintings are enclosed in a climate-controlled, in-frame vitrine, made for the individual piece. The vitrine ensures that the encapsulated painting will remain in the Walters’ relative humidity outside the museum walls. Our video demonstrates the vitrine-making process on one of the Walters’ most famous paintings.

Continue reading An Ideal Climate for The Ideal City: Constructing an In-Frame Vitrine →

A 14th Century Catalan Triptych (37.468)

Circle of Ferrer Bassa (Spanish, ca. 1290-1348),  Triptych with Madonna and Child with the Crucifixion and the Annunciation, ca. 1340-1348 (Medieval). Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 126.8 x 184.9 cm. The Walters Art Museum, 37.468
Circle of Ferrer Bassa (Spanish, ca. 1290-1348), Triptych with Madonna and Child with the Crucifixion and the Annunciation, ca. 1340-1348 (Medieval). Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 126.8 x 184.9 cm. The Walters Art Museum, 37.468

Art historical, scientific, and technical research contribute to the careful treatment of this very rare and significant Spanish altarpiece, attributed to a Catalan master. The large Gothic triptych titled The Madonna and Child with the Crucifixion, the Annunciation, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Coronation of the Virgin is a striking example of Italian influence in Spain. (Carmen Albendea, Jennifer Giaccai)

See an interactive online presentation about the Catalan altarpiece created by the Walters.

Continue reading A 14th Century Catalan Triptych (37.468) →

A Puzzling Piece: The Walters Spanish Processional Cross

Recently in the Objects Conservation lab at the Walters, in collaboration with Curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art at the Walters, Dr. Joaneath Spicer, this 15-16th century Spanish Processional Cross has been the subject of a year-long in-depth study and conservation treatment, funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Spanish Processional Cross, front (shown on the left above) and back (above right). The cross is from Zaragoza, Spain and dates to the 15-16th century. It measures 5.2 feet tall by 1.9 feet wide and is made of gilded-silver and enamel components attached to a wooden core.
Spanish Processional Cross, front (shown on the left above) and back (above right). The cross is from Zaragoza, Spain and dates to the 15-16th century. It measures 5.2 feet tall by 1.9 feet wide and is made of gilded-silver and enamel components attached to a wooden core.

This study was undertaken to learn more about the cross’ history and to carry out conservation treatment in order to make the cross stable enough to be on display in the galleries.

Continue reading A Puzzling Piece: The Walters Spanish Processional Cross →

Finding Edmonia Lewis

Discovered in a box among photographs of unnamed, unidentified and forgotten African American men, women and children, it is the only known photograph of the American sculptor taken in Rome, and probably dates around 1874–76. Although no one in the shop understood my ecstatic reaction, I knew that prior to this discovery, there existed only seven known photographs of Mary Edmonia Lewis (1844–1907), all taken at the same sitting in Chicago around 1868–70, by photographer Henry Rocher

“Edmonia Lewis, the colored sculptor, residing in Rome . . . is below medium height; her complexion and feautures [sic] betray her African origin; her hair is more of the Indian type, black straight and abundant … her face is bright, intelligent, and expressive . . . She is one of the most interesting of our American women artists here, and we are glad to know that she is fast winning fame and fortune.”

—Morning Republican, Little Rock, AR, May 17, 1871

Continue reading Finding Edmonia Lewis →

Cartonnage: Fragments of a Mummy Wrapping (Part II)

By using examination techniques that do not damage the object, it is possible to characterize many of the materials that were used to create this cartonnage. Now that conservators know more about these materials, it is possible to make recommendations about how best to store this object so that it will not continue to deteriorate. The fragment will be placed in a closed container to protect the fragile surface from accidental damage and the Egyptian blue from exposure to the air. It will be kept in the dark or in low light to protect the orpiment.

Fragment of mummy cartonnage with a seated jackal-headed god.  Egyptian, 6th-1st century B.C.E. 3 1/4 x 5 13/16 inches.  Gift of Ms. Devera Glazer-Schoenberg, Walters Art Museum 78.5.
Fragment of mummy cartonnage with a seated jackal-headed god. Egyptian, 6th-1st century B.C.E.
3 1/4 x 5 13/16 inches. Gift of Ms. Devera Glazer-Schoenberg, Walters Art Museum 78.5.

The blue background of this cartonnage fragment appears very dark when viewed under normal conditions, but under the microscope, a brighter blue color can be seen underneath.  This blue resembles Egyptian blue, a synthetic pigment made by heating a combination of copper, white sand, chalk and a sodium salt such as natron.  The result is a solid, glassy material that can be used to make whole objects, such as this small covered jar in the Walters Art Museum.

Egyptian blue amphora with cover.  Egyptian, 1380-1300 B.C.E.4 15/16 x 4 inches.  Walters Art Museum 47.1
Egyptian blue amphora with cover. Egyptian, 1380-1300 B.C.E.
4 15/16 x 4 inches. Walters Art Museum 47.1

Egyptian blue can also be ground up as a pigment and used to paint.  When it is first applied, it appears brilliant blue, but over time the pigment oxidizes as it is exposed to air, and becomes darker.

Continue reading Cartonnage: Fragments of a Mummy Wrapping (Part II) →

Cartonnage: Fragments of a Mummy Wrapping (Part I)

Cartonnage is the painted material that covers many mummy bundles.  Like a plaster cast, it is made of layers of fabric (usually linen) that are wrapped around the bundle and then covered with a smooth, white layer of plaster.  After it is dry, the plaster surface can be painted with designs and Egyptian religious symbols.

Mummy and painted cartonnage of an unknown woman.  Egyptian, ca. 850-750 B.C.E.Walters Art Museum, 79.1
Mummy and painted cartonnage of an unknown woman. Egyptian, ca. 850-750 B.C.E.
Walters Art Museum, 79.1
Side view.  Walters Art Museum, 79.1
Side view.
Walters Art Museum, 79.1

The Walters Art Museum includes a number of examples of cartonnage, including several small fragments.  One of these fragments was recently in the Objects Conservation lab so that conservators could evaluate its condition and make recommendations about how best to preserve it.

Continue reading Cartonnage: Fragments of a Mummy Wrapping (Part I) →

Consider the Coconut

Today, coconut is a common food, whether baked in a cake, stirred into a curry, or eaten fresh from the shell.  Because it is possible to buy coconuts at nearly any supermarket or grocery store, they are not considered especially rare or unusual.  But this has not always been the case.

A cross-section of a whole coconut.  The smooth, greenish skin and fibrous brown husk (also known as coir) are typically removed before coconuts are shipped to stores.  The copra, or interior of the coconut, contains the white flesh and coconut milk, both of which can be eaten.  The thin, dark shell can be used for a variety of purposes, and is sometimes incorporated into art objects.
A cross-section of a whole coconut. The smooth, greenish skin and fibrous brown husk (also known as coir) are typically removed before coconuts are shipped to stores. The copra, or interior of the coconut, contains the white flesh and coconut milk, both of which can be eaten. The thin, dark shell can be used for a variety of purposes, and is sometimes incorporated into art objects.

Coconut palms are not native to Europe, and in the past coconuts were imported or traded from faraway places in Asia and the new world.  The rarity, cost, and exotic nature of coconut shells meant that they were often treated as precious materials and mounted with silver, gold, enamels, or jewels.  During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, coconuts were often included in treasuries and chambers of wonders.

Continue reading Consider the Coconut →

This Manuscript Page has a 5 o’clock Shadow

What is that? Mold? Ink splatter? No, it’s stubble. Sometimes we come across fun surprises in manuscripts that remind us the animal origins of vellum.

Sometimes we come across fun surprises in manuscripts that remind us the animal origins of vellum.
hairypage

What is that? Mold? Ink splatter?

Continue reading This Manuscript Page has a 5 o’clock Shadow →

Henry Walters’s Watches

The Walters Art Museum contains a large collection of historic watches, many of which were collected by Henry Walters. Mr. Walters appears to have collected the watches mainly with an eye toward the beauty of their cases. Many of the watch cases qualify as miniature works of art in enamel, metalwork, and gemstone; yet recent conservation work has shown that the clockworks inside the cases may often be later replacements, pastiches, or else incomplete and non-functional.

The Walters Art Museum contains a large collection of historic watches, many of which were collected by Henry Walters.  Mr. Walters appears to have collected the watches mainly with an eye toward the beauty of their cases.  Many of the watch cases qualify as miniature works of art in enamel, metalwork, and gemstone; yet recent conservation work has shown that the clockworks inside the cases may often be later replacements, pastiches, or else incomplete and non-functional.

Henry Walters’s interest in the exterior beauty of his watches is evident in the care he took to display them in his personal collection.  The archives of the Walters Art Museum include Mr. Walters’s design sketches for watch display stands, as well as several surviving examples of the finished product.

Continue reading Henry Walters’s Watches →

An exciting new addition to the Walters Art Museum’s nineteenth-century painting collection: Lion Drinking by Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Walters Art Museum recently purchased at auction a painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), an African American artist whose reputation has been reassessed with the major exhibition currently touring the United States: Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The Walters already owns one work by Tanner: a bust of his father, Benjamin Tucker Tanner, purchased though the generosity of Eddie and Sylvia Brown. This work is featured in the exhibition currently touring. Tanner is regarded as one of the most distinguished American painters. He received his training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia under Thomas Eakins and at the Académie Julian in Paris. After 1895, he lived in Paris and painted religious works inspired by his travels in the Holy Land. The painting just purchased, Lion Drinking, dates from ca.1897 and is probably set in Palestine. It appears closely related to another painting of several lions from around the same date:Lions in the Desert (1897-98) in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC. Lion Drinking complements the Walters’ holdings of nineteenth-century art remarkably well as, like the Smithsonian’s painting, the work bares a strong compositional resemblance to a work by Jean-Léon Gérôme, an artist well represented in at the Walters. The new painting will undergo treatment by conservators and get a new frame before being hung in the fourth floor galleries.

Continue reading An exciting new addition to the Walters Art Museum’s nineteenth-century painting collection: Lion Drinking by Henry Ossawa Tanner →

The Conservator’s Toolbox: X-radiography of a Japanese cloisonné enamel

At the Walters, we regularly take x-rays of objects, paintings, and books; this allows us to have “x-ray vision” and look inside objects.

An objects conservator in the Conservation Window with a set of cloisonné enamels which shows how they were made and holding the x-ray of the Dragon vase, the subject of this post. The Dragon vase is on the desk in the nest of tissue, lying down to keep it safe from falling over.

Recently in the Conservation Window, an objects conservator was talking with museum visitors about how conservators use x-radiography to non-destructively learn about how objects were made and also assess their condition, using a 20thcentury Japanese cloisonné enamel vase as an example.

Continue reading The Conservator’s Toolbox: X-radiography of a Japanese cloisonné enamel →

Revealing the Lost Writings of Archimedes

How do you read a two-thousand-year-old manuscript that has been erased, cut up, written on and painted over? With a powerful particle accelerator, of course!

How do you read a two-thousand-year-old manuscript that has been erased, cut up, written on and painted over? With a powerful particle accelerator, of course! Ancient books curator William Noel tells the fascinating story behind the Archimedes palimpsest, a Byzantine prayer book containing previously-unknown original writings from ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes and others.

Continue reading Revealing the Lost Writings of Archimedes →

Discoveries made about this Walters treasure revealed soon at The Frick Collection

An elaborate flower basin or something more exclusive? Discoveries made about this Walters treasure revealed soon at The Frick Collection.

An elaborate flower basin or something more exclusive? Discoveries made about this Walters treasure revealed soon at The Frick Collection.

Continue reading Discoveries made about this Walters treasure revealed soon at The Frick Collection →

Online Collection Honored by Webby Awards

We’re pleased to announce that the Walters Art Museum’s Online Collection Website has been named an Official Honoree in the 2012 Webby Awards in the category of cultural institutions. The Walters’ collection website, launched in September, contains downloadable images and detailed information about more than 10,000 objects in the museum’s permanant collection. Images are provided under a creative commons licensee, making them freely available. Construction of the website was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Walters, along with our partner agency, Fastspot are both very proud to be among the industry leaders recognized by the Webby Awards, which are known as the Internet’s most respected symbol of success. Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by the New York Times, the Webbys are the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, in categories ranging from Websites and interactive advertising and media to online film and video, mobile, and apps.

Continue reading Online Collection Honored by Webby Awards →

My Iraqi Cat

Our chief conservator, Terry Drayman-Weisser, has returned from Iraq. She is the director of conservation and technical research, at the Walters Art Museum, and travels to Iraq to assist with conservation efforts there.

Anyone who knows me well will immediately suspect something amiss with this blog title. I am allergic to the touch of cats, and they usually don’t show any interest in me anyway, unless they are up-to-no-good. But not in Iraq.

Here is a love story: In the summer of 2011 I made my third trip to Erbil, Iraq to teach ivory preservation at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage. As usual, I arrived exhausted after a 13 hour overnight journey. As I entered Jessie’s (the academic director’s) house where I always stay, I discovered to my horror that a cat had taken up residence. Even though cats and I have never gotten along, I have always admired their mesmerizing beauty. But this cat was painfully thin except for its belly that was swollen with a protruding angry red seam laced with large dark stitches. I was determined to stay as far away as possible. And I did. But the next day Jessie asked if I would accompany her to the vet so the cat could get its stitches removed. What could I say? The cat was boxed up, we climbed into a taxi and headed for the vet.

Continue reading My Iraqi Cat →

Pretend You’re the Collector

If you’ve visited our online collection of artwork recently, you’ve probably noticed that you can use it to build your own collection. If you haven’t, now is a great time, not only to see the collection in an exciting way, but to use it.

If you’ve visited our online collection of artwork recently, you’ve probably noticed that you can use it to build your own collection. If you haven’t, now is a great time, not only to see the collection in an exciting way, but to use it.

Continue reading Pretend You’re the Collector →

Renée May, Honored Museum Docent

“Life gives art meaning, just as art gives meaning to life.”

On September 11, 2001, Renée May, a docent at the Walters Art Museum, was killed performing her duties as a flight attendant on American Airlines flight #77, which, under the command of terrorist hijackers, crashed into the Pentagon.

A docent since 1997, Renée received extensive training on the collections of the Walters so that she could tour Walters’ visitors through the galleries. Renée was especially fond of touring children and looked forward to October 2001 when the Walters’ galleries would be officially re-opened.

Continue reading Renée May, Honored Museum Docent →

Our New Works of Art Website

If you’ve visited our website recently, you’ve probably noticed our extensive online collection of artwork. If you haven’t, now is a great time to see our collection in an interesting new way. We’ve recently redesigned our works of art website. There’s plenty to see and do.

If you’ve visited our website recently, you’ve probably noticed our extensive online collection of artwork. If you haven’t, now is a great time to see our collection in an interesting new way. We’ve recently redesigned our works of art website. There’s plenty to see and do.

What’s new online?

Continue reading Our New Works of Art Website →

Go Team, Go!

Did you know that the Walters Art Museum sponsors a sports team? That’s right, we’re the proud sponsors of the Roland Park Patriots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Did you know that the Walters Art Museum sponsors a sports team? That’s right, we’re the proud sponsors of the Roland Park Patriots. This team, a group of nine- and ten-year- olds,  is a co-ed leagu. They play their baseball games in various neighborhoods in Baltimore, including Roland Park, Hampden, Medfield and Washington.

Continue reading Go Team, Go! →

A New Digital Resource for Historians of Islamic Art and Culture: The Islamic Manuscripts of the Walters Art Museum

With the help of a Preservation and Access Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and with additional funding from an anonymous donor, the Walters is pleased to announce the completion of its program to create digital surrogates of its collection of Islamic manuscripts and single leaves. All the data is licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 UnportedAccess Rights,http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode. Images are free for any noncommercial use, provided you follow the terms of the license. There is no need to apply to the Walters prior to using the images.

Highlights of the collection include a fifteenth-century Timurid Qur’an (Ms. W.563); a late seventeenth-century copy of the Book on Navigation by Piri Reis (Ms. W.658); and a sixteenth-century de luxe Mughal manuscript of Amir Khusrau Dhilavi’s Khamsa (Ms. W.624).

Continue reading A New Digital Resource for Historians of Islamic Art and Culture: The Islamic Manuscripts of the Walters Art Museum →

Reinstalling the Nineteenth-Century Paintings Collection

This spring the Walters will welcome back forty of its best-known paintings. J.A.D. Ingres’ Oedipus and the Sphinx, Claude Monet’s Springtime and many more will return to the galleries from a triumphant year-long tour in the traveling exhibition Masterpieces of Nineteenth-Century Painting from the Walters Art Museum. The exhibition opened at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (January 30–May 30, 2010) and followed with a record-breaking run at the University of Texas’s Blanton Museum of Art (October 2, 2010–January 2, 2011). Early summer will also see the return of an important group of works from the acclaimed exhibition The Spectacular Art of Jean-L

Continue reading Reinstalling the Nineteenth-Century Paintings Collection →

The Walters’ Mona Lisa

Few are aware that one of the best and earliest copies of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is right here in Baltimore at the Walters. The painting is on display in the the museum’s 16th-century art galleries. Recent excitement surrounding the technical examination of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa prompted a re-examination in late September of the x-ray of the Walters’ copy.

Few are aware that one of the best and earliest copies of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is right here in Baltimore at the Walters. The painting is on display in the the museum’s 16th-century art galleries.

The Painting

one of the earliest copies of the Mona Lisa
one of the earliest copies of the Mona Lisa

Recent excitement surrounding the technical examination of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa prompted a re-examination in late September of the x-ray of the Walters’ copy. This is one of the finest of the nine good, early known copies of Leonardo’s famous painting (ca. 1630-60) and is almost identical in size (31 ¼ x 20 in.). The artist carefully reproduced Leondardo’s sfumato (smoke-like) technique, blurring the contours of the woman and landscape as if seen through an atmospheric haze. In the original, this technique contributes to the woman’s enigmatic smile.

Continue reading The Walters’ Mona Lisa →

Egyptian Museums and Cultural Sites are Threatened

Egyptian Museums and cultural sites have been the target of thefts and looters during the unrest in Egypt during the last week. Works of art have been stolen and some were damaged and destroyed. However, after the Egyptians realized that their heritage came into danger many Egyptian colleagues engaged in the cultural sector and countless volunteers tried to protect it in private and official initiatives. Many rumors are circulating, and we have to wait until the situation has calmed down to review what is fact. One of the most impressive example was the chain of people on the Tahrir place in Cairo, who tried to protect the Egyptian Museum from further thefts.

Continue reading Egyptian Museums and Cultural Sites are Threatened →

The Walters Art Museum has received a grant for $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts

We are proud to announce that the Walters Art Museum has received a grant for $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts for fiscal year 2011. This grant is to help support the costs of presenting and interpreting the special exhibition Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, on view at the Walters February 13–May 15, 2011.

This ground-breaking exhibition is organized by the Walters in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art and the British Museum. Treasures of Heaven will celebrate the artistic innovations of medieval artists as they challenged the confines of the material world in order to represent the divine. Medieval Christians venerated saints; their bodily remains were often displayed in special containers, known as reliquaries. Covered in gold and silver and embellished with gems and semiprecious stones, reliquaries proclaimed the special status of their sacred contents to worshipers and pilgrims. For this reason, reliquaries emerged as important objects of artistic innovation, as expressions of civic and religious identity, and as focal points of ritual action. This exhibition of 133 works will explore the emergence and transformation of several key types of reliquaries, moving from an age in which saintly remains were enshrined within closed containers to an era in which relics were increasingly presented directly to worshipers, from Late Antiquity until the Reformation and beyond.

Continue reading The Walters Art Museum has received a grant for $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts →

Theodore Lewis Low: Visionary Director of Education at The Walters, 1946- 1980

The purpose and the only purpose of museums is education in all its varied aspects from the most scholarly research to the simple arousing of curiosity…and it must always be intimately connected with the life of the people.

Ted Low, The Museum as a Social Instrument, 1942

Continue reading Theodore Lewis Low: Visionary Director of Education at The Walters, 1946- 1980 →